The maker of a disallowed iOS app called Coronavirus Reporter has sued Apple claiming the iPhone overlord's refusal to approve the software violates America's antitrust law.
In a complaint [PDF] filed in the District of New Hampshire on Tuesday, Keith Mathews, a lawyer with Associated Attorneys of New England, states that the plaintiff, identified as a Wyoming-based app maker operating under the name Coronavirus Reporter, submitted an app of the same name on March 3, 2020, seeking distribution approval.
According to the court paperwork, the application was designed to allow people to declare they had symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, with the results aggregated on a map to illustrate the bio-nasty's spread. It was built before reliable Bluetooth-based contact-tracing had been devised, tested, and released. The filing claimed:
Below a screenshot of this seemingly crowd-sourced pandemic-tracking iOS app, taken from the filing:
Click to enlarge
Three days after the software was submitted for approval, Apple is said to have rejected the app based on a rule revision declaring that the iGiant will only accept coronavirus apps from "recognized institutions such as government, hospital, insurance company, NGO, or a university."
Apple published a notice of the rule change on March 14, 2020, citing the need to present credible health and safety information. Coronavirus Reporter appealed but Apple is said to have denied the appeal on March 26, 2020.
"Apple alleged that Coronavirus Reporter was not a recognized healthcare company," the complaint says. "Additionally, Apple stated that the 'user-generated data has not been vetted for accuracy by a reputable source.' In other words, Apple told Plaintiff a self-reported symptoms model was not acceptable for the pandemic."
COVID-19 tracing without an app? There's an iOS and Android update for that
On Apple's developer forums, other iOS devs have griped about the mega-corp's refusal to accept coronavirus-related apps from developers not affiliated with approved organizations.
The court filing stated that Apple subsequently allowed several employees at a teaching hospital in London, England, to distribute a coronavirus app that functioned in a way nearly identical to Coronavirus Reporter.
"That competing app obtained the so-called first player advantage, and is used by five million individuals daily," the legal filing laments, and goes on to disparage the performance of Apple's own contact-tracing software, released later that summer.
It also takes a shot at Apple's June 2020 announcement that it would allow developers to challenge App Store rules. That policy change, widely seen as an attempt to mollify antitrust regulators, was "a sham," the complaint argues.
In 2019, the US Supreme Court ruled in Apple v. Pepper that consumers have the right to sue Apple for monopolizing the sale of apps