Developer gets disqualified from Small Business Program after Apple couldn’t answer his question


If you are an app developer interested in getting into the Apple Small Business Program to lower your App Store fees to 15 percent, do not transfer any of your apps between accounts. One developer learned his lesson the hard way after failing to get a clear answer from Apple.
Last November, Apple announced its App Store Small Business Program. The initiative is aimed at helping small developers making under $1 million per year grow their businesses. It officially launched on January 1 with some restrictions that Apple had not made clear.

Sean Harding is a developer who had already had a camera app in the store and made less than $1,000 in 2020, so he was sure he qualified for the program. He created an LLC and a new developer account and began the application process. However, Harding was unsure if he should transfer his existing app into his new account, so he reached out to Apple Developer Support for clarification.

The first two email responses he got from support did not answer his question. Harding sent a third email wondering why it was so hard to get a simple answer to the question of whether or not he should transfer his app.

The third response told him, “Since you are not enrolled into the small business program yet, You are able to transfer the application and then submit your enrollment,” which turned out to be completely false. The email continued, “However, we would not be able to guarantee your eligibility for the program if you do pursue the app transfer,” which was completely true.

At that point, Harding was still confused as to whether he should or should not transfer his app. Instead of reaching out a fourth time and likely getting a similarly confusing reply, Harding made the leap of faith that what support was saying was that the transfer would not disqualify him but that Apple does not guarantee that anyone gets accepted into the program.

Harding made the transfer and completed the application, which was flatly denied because he had transferred the application after January 1, 2021. He appealed the decision twice and got the same response—he was ineligible because he missed the app transfer deadline.

Harding accepted that it was his mistake, but what was so infuriating is that it was clearly past the deadline when he asked for help, so why didn’t support simply say that.

Harding concluded his Twitter rant by saying, “If you take nothing away from this, learn from my mistake: never, ever transfer an app in any way or direction, if you want to participate in the small business program in the future.”

There is still a sliver of hope that Harding can still get into the program with another appeal. Fellow developer and former Apple employee Ryan Jones saw Harding’s tweets and said that he would reach out to his contacts at Apple because it seemed like an issue that should be cleared up on appeal.

“The transfer ended after January 1, 2021? That’s the crux. Seems like maybe that wasn’t known to be the plan in your Q&A back and forth,” Jones replied. “They can’t 100% spell it out, too many edges and bad actors. Still, the appeal should work. That’s the point of an appeal. I’ll send to contacts.”

In my opinion, this is one that Apple should let through. There is no excuse why support could not have simply said that the transfer deadline had already expired.