back to article UK tribunal: App Store class action seeking up to $1.8b can continue

A UK tribunal has agreed that a Collective Proceedings Order (CPO) potentially involving 19.6 million consumers in the country can go ahead in a case that could cost Apple up to £1.5 billion ($1.8 billion). A CPO is a group litigation order roughly akin to a class-action procedure in the US. At issue are Apple's App Store …

  1. Smeagolberg

    "The Register contacted Apple... and... it did repeat the statement"

    Congratulations - a rare response from Apple!

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      I would guess that the Register's HQ and Apple HQ being 8 hours apart have to be at least partially responsible for the spotty response. Getting a PR person on the phone is still probably the best way of getting an official statement.

      Yes obviously lots of US tech companies are in the same time zone, but if Facebook or Microsoft doesn't respond no one notices/cares. People only comment on it for Apple because for years it seems that the Reg was on Apple's shit list and never responded. It seems they are off the list and now are just getting the "you aren't the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, so we'll reply at our leisure if we feel like it" treatment.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        They have some writers in the U.S., with their U.S. office in San Francisco. One of them can call Apple any time they want. I'm guessing it's been tried and didn't work any better. They probably got a response this time because it's a boiler plate and some PR employee was told to send that to anyone who asks about this case.

  2. John Robson Silver badge

    How did they come up with that value

    I can't do maths....

    Damages between £25 and £75 pounds... (£500-1500m distributed amongst 20m iOS users)

    That feels relatively mild

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: How did they come up with that value

      They will just slap it on the next phone and say it's inflation.

      Apple followers will happily gobble it.

    2. General Purpose

      Re: How did they come up with that value

      The total seems to be a calculation of extra (excess) profit made by Apple through its App Store, mainly in terms of its return on capital employed and its weighted average cost of capital. That's then been divided by an estimated 19.6 million consumers who have made app-related purchases.

      It might be interesting to check that by estimating how much the average user spends on or in apps, but the tribunal doesn't mention either side doing that. The tribunal's pretty clear that the calculations will be a matter for trial, not for deciding whether it can go to trial.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: How did they come up with that value

        App store profits...

        Crikey. I don't think I've ever spent that much money on apps...

    3. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: How did they come up with that value

      Is it on a per person basis, or a per device basis?

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: How did they come up with that value

        Well I looked through the last 2 years of App Store purchase and I don’t think I have spent more that £40 (a lot of that went on the rusty lake games).

        So I don’t spend that much at all

    4. Povl H. Pedersen

      Re: How did they come up with that value

      Most users has NOT spent money in the App store.

      If 15% is fair, then everybody could get 15% of their purchases back - limited by expiration of the claim.

      And if 15% is fair, we need the same everywhere. Microsoft store, Epic store, Playstation Store etc. Personally I think it is dagerous to set a rate.

      If developers are not happy, they just drop the Apple app store. And Apple will come to them if they want the product on the shelves.

      1. Falmari Silver badge

        Re: How did they come up with that value

        Microsoft store (PC) and Epic store are both 12% cut for games. GOG claim that they negotiate their cut with each of the game publishers. Humble take 15% cut + 10% cut to charity or returned to purchaser.

        Steam and the consoles seem to be the only ones with a 30% cut in most cases.

        Games make a good example of the cut store take as the vast majority of revenue for Apple's app store is generated from game apps.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: How did they come up with that value

        "And if 15% is fair, we need the same everywhere. Microsoft store, Epic store, Playstation Store etc."

        No, we don't. What we need is choice, and limits only if there isn't choice. If the Microsoft store charged 99.5% (and they don't, it's 12%), that would be fine. Why? Because you don't need to get apps from that store and most commercial ones aren't there at all. If they wanted to charge that much, all commercial apps would leave and they'd have to decrease it to compete. Apple's is different because they've denied other choices. I agree that, if their commission is too high, anyone else with such a monopoly on distribution should have the same action brought and their commissions reduced as well. It would probably be better for everyone, including Apple's profits, if they allowed different installation mechanisms instead.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Despite the headline I assume the UK tribunal is working in £££ and that the actual $$$ value will depend on the rate of exchange at the time.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "The stage is therefore set for a full trial"

    And there will be many, many eyes following that trial.

  5. DenTheMan

    Reads like this?

    Monopolist gets charged with monopolist behaviour.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Commission isn't even the biggest issue

    What really annoys ME about the App Store is I can't put a fully-free, no ads, libre open source app on it unless I (1) pay an extortionate annual hosting fee, (2) keep up with the latest Mac hardware so I can run an acceptable version of XCode to submit it and (3) water down the licenses. And by the way, all that has to be done before I even find out if Apple will accept my app or not.

    I want to do the world a favour by publishing my free software and not making any profit from it at all (other than perhaps getting me some reputation points). But not if doing so will leave me that much out of pocket.

    You want my stuff? Get Android.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Commission isn't even the biggest issue

      1) - £75 pa

      2) - how are you going to test/maintain the app if you dont keep up to date to a reasonable level?

      3) - surely ironic

      2.i) and you dont need to buy a new desktop and update your leased line every month to keep up with the processing + bandwidth requirements of the abomination called Android Studio which gets broken every few weeks with a latest 'update' ??? please enlighten !.

      Having said that, price gouging is indeed only a part of the issue. As least as problematic is the list of things that you can and cannot do with apps - and little way of knowing until Apples random testers choose on a whim that they dont like something. Sure some things would generally be considered anti-social / potentially illegal in some territories etc, others are real difficult to see that being the case.

      e.g. want to use a different payment processor, html rendering engine etc ?

      Not that Google Play Store is any better, quite frankly they are both as bad as each other.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Commission isn't even the biggest issue

        I can develop Android apps without using Android Studio. I can use my own editor; all I need is the command line to compile it. That runs on Linux, which I can run in a VM, currently on a 12-year-old Mac.

        I had to pay only once for being on the Android Play Store, and about a quarter of App Store's annual fee (which is more like 80/year last time I checked, probably more now).

        So it's a bit of a big hit just to find out if Apple's testers would like my apps or not (one of which is a web browser with extra accessibility features, which I suspect might get an automatic fail just for being a web browser; at least the Google folks don't mind that although Amazon rejected it).

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Commission isn't even the biggest issue

          Well, you can use the Xcode commandline too if you don't like the GUI... you are still installing Android Studio to get the bits you need to package your app.

          To be honest, having used all the major app stores, I am surprised that people still go around trying to say Google's one is better than Apple's or vice-versa. They are all pretty much identical, and the main cost is the mobile phones needed for testing.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Commission isn't even the biggest issue

            The point is that, to get the XCode needed to build for the latest IOS, you need the latest Mac OS which means quite recent Mac hardware. To get the tools needed for the latest Android, you click a link which runs on basically everything, even equipment a decade old. The big GUI stuff might grow in system requirements, but you don't have to run it, so your app can still be built on lots of computers.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Commission isn't even the biggest issue

        "how are you going to test/maintain the app if you dont keep up to date to a reasonable level?"

        By testing on the latest version of IOS, the platform they appear to be compiling for. Running a very new version of Mac OS will do nothing for you if you're testing on old versions of IOS, and staying on an old Mac OS will not harm you if you're testing properly. For developing Mac OS applications, your statement applies better, but they're developing mobile apps.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Commission isn't even the biggest issue

        (3) - probably a reference to section 10 of the GPL, which says you may not add additional restrictions. Apple adds additional restrictions against side-loading, therefore you cannot legally use GPL'd components in an App Store app. You have to make sure all the components you use are licenced under a more liberal licence, like BSD or Apache or MIT, which is ok with additional restrictions being placed on the distribution.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Commission isn't even the biggest issue

          The GPL actually says nothing about assisting people in installing software, only in providing the source code. If you have the source code you can install on any Apple device that you like. There are plenty of other companies that bundle GPL code with third-party, non-free installers and other stuff and there are no issues for them.

          That's before the 10 device install limit only applying to paid apps - which is not how most GPL software would be distributed...

          What actually happened was some crazy people started threatening to sue Apple because they hate Apple, so Apple just said "ok - no GPL". If you were to take it to the logical conclusion, AWS and Azure are in the same position if people host GPL binaries from there.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Commission isn't even the biggest issue

      Another concern I have is, if you want to produce a mobile app as part of a bigger system, perhaps along with a server app, then the App Store is not the best way to distribute it, because then you get people who find it in the App Store, and try to use it without the rest of the system.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Stop us if you've heard this before

    We've all heard it before and it won't stop.

    Apple being Apple isn't news. And all these lawsuits and regulatory decisions are just nibbling at the peel. Without striking at the core and splitting up the seeds Apple will continue laughing all the way to the bank.

    Apple (and the other usual suspects) have become too big and powerful to control.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stop us if you've heard this before

      Who exactly do you want to have control over these companies? Some unelected government official?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Stop us if you've heard this before

        In most cases where a monopolist has been broken up by legal action, the resultant pieces have remained private. They continue to operate without government control, just without being able to work in concert. The person you replied to did not suggest nationalization, so suggesting that they desire it is putting words into their mouth.

  8. ravenviz Silver badge

    You know I have problems with my iPhone 8 syncing with a 2015 Macbook Air running Monterey, and all the online help via Apple is useless. Try resetting your phone and restoring from a backup. Try this other massive time consuming inconclusive thing. Or that other one. People often fix things themselves and Apple Help says “I am so pleased for you”. Apple sync and other diagnostics are really bad and you can’t tell what software is doing, or if it’s hung. I haven’t been able to properly sync my 35,000 photo library to my 256 GB iPhone for months, and the music collection (15,000 tracks) on my iPhone is all over the place, missing tracks, missing artwork, etc. I have my own stuff on my own hard drives, and would like it on my phone. Is this just encumbrance to encourage me to use (and pay for) Cloud services?

    1. X5-332960073452
  9. jmch Silver badge

    "In line"

    "The commissions charged by the App Store are very much in the mainstream of those charged by all other digital marketplaces. "

    Translated: Don't mind our price-gouging, everyone else does it too!!

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