Apple Explains Why Developer Behind Popular App ‘Dash’ Was Banned [u]

Last week, Apple pulled the popular developer app Dash from the App Store and Mac App Store, while also banning developer accounts belonging to founder Bogdan Popescu. The reasons were allegations of fraudulent activity involving review manipulations.

At the time, supporters of Popescu got angry at Apple for its ‘sudden’ decision, but now iPhone maker has cleared the air, sharing details exclusively with Jim Dalrymple from The Loop Insight.

Apple spokesperson, Tom Neumayr, told Dalrymple, “Almost 1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected across two accounts and 25 apps for this developer so we removed their apps and accounts from the App Store.”

He further clarified “Warning was given in advance of the termination and attempts were made to resolve the issue with the developer but they were unsuccessful. We will terminate developer accounts for ratings and review fraud, including actions designed to hurt other developers. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, on behalf of all of our customers and developers.”

While many thought Apple made this decision without warning, that is untrue. Apple says it first warned the developer two years ago, but the “behaviour did not change,” reports The Loop.

Last week, Popescu shared the following on his blog, detailing his situation with Apple:

Apple contacted me and told me they found evidence of App Store review manipulation. This is something I’ve never done.

Apple’s decision is final and can’t be appealed.

While he denies review manipulations, Apple is stating otherwise, based on evidence it has on record.

Update: Dash’s developer has responded with his side of the story, after Apple released their statements to The Loop and iMore. But get this–he also posted an audio recording of his conversation with an unnamed Apple employee.

Below is what Popescu reveals:

What I’ve done: 3-4 years ago I helped a relative get started by paying for her Apple’s Developer Program Membership using my credit card. I also handed her test hardware that I no longer needed. From then on those accounts were linked in the eyes of Apple. Once that account was involved with review manipulation, my account was closed.

I was not aware my account was linked to another until Apple contacted me Friday, 2 days after closing my account. I was never notified of any kind of wrongdoing before my account was terminated.

I’ve listened to the 8 minute audio conversation (twice), and in it, Apple says if Popescu wants to get back into the developer program, he has to share the following facts in his blog post clearing the air:

  • His Dash developer account and the fraudulent account were linked (same bank account; same test devices; enrolled with same credit card)
  • He is working with Apple to unlink the accounts and get back into the developer program
  • Apple didn’t make a mistake; the accounts were linked and warnings were provided to fraudulent account

We know Apple has been heavy-handed in the past with removing apps from the App Store they deem fraudulent or developers trying to game the system. Dash is a widely used tool by popular developers, so when the latter heard the app was removed without warning, everyone was quick to condemn Apple, after Popescu shared his initial story that he did nothing wrong.

The audio call appears to shed some more light on the story (not fully), but enough to make me believe the developer needs to take responsibility for the other account he helped sign up for “his relative”.

If you agree to help someone start a developer account and it’s linked to your credit card, bank account and test devices, you better damn know for sure what kind of activities their dev account is up to, because all signs will point to you if shit hits the fan.

So this relative turns out to be doing some shady stuff. Their developer account gets banned, and subsequently also takes down the Dash developer account too, because they are linked. Developers uproar over this unjust move, and Apple executive Phil Schiller takes it upon himself to investigate and fix it.

If I was the Dash developer, and I hear on the call Schiller himself is handling my case, I’d be jumping for joy. I would be happy Apple wants to unlink the fraudulent account, and restore my developer account, plus clear the air. Some smaller developers without popular apps most likely would not have an Apple executive even aware of their case, let alone dealing with it directly.

If I truly was innocent and had nothing to hide, I’d condemn my relative and say I should not have linked my developer account to theirs. But I’m back in the App Store now and customers can re-download my software and everything can go back to normal.

But Popescu sounds like he doesn’t want to do this or take any responsibility. He says he had no control over the other account (true), but Apple is making him responsible for it, and believes he is not at fault, at all.

If you co-sign a loan or a lease for a car, legally you are responsible too, right? The same is with Popescu here, in Apple’s eyes. The fraudulent account was started by him, plus had all his details such as the same bank account, credit card and test devices.

We don’t know what happened to his draft post sent to Phil Schiller to read over, but it appears nothing materialized that both parties could agree on. Apple believed it was time to share their side of the story to select media outlets, after staying silent for days, while taking intense heat on social media for being unfair.

Everyone knows you need to play by Apple’s rules, especially when it comes to the App Store. Phil Schiller frickin’ got involved to bring Popescu back into the App Store. Unfortunately, the Dash developer sounded too stubborn to accept responsibility for being linked to a fraudulent account and embrace Apple offering him a chance to get reinstated–by stating the facts from their investigation.

What do you think? Is Apple being fair or unfair here? What about Popescu’s actions?