Apple bans manipulated reviews, misleading marketing in new App Review guidelines

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Apple has made a number of updates to its App Store Review Guidelines, clarifying existing policies and adding new requirements for app makers.

As part of the changes announced at WWDC, Apple now requires that apps supporting account creation must also offer an easy account deletion flow.

The company has also added new requirements to its Developer Code of Conduct to address trust and safety issues. For example, Apple has added rules requiring that developer identities are accurate and up to date. Other new rules include strict prohibitions on manipulated reviews and the inclusion of customer complaints as a factor in deciding whether the Code of Conduct is being followed.

Apple has also tightened restrictions on certain app categories. For example, "hookup" apps that could include pornography or facilitate prostitution will be rejected. The company is also requiring that apps for reporting crimes involve local law enforcement, and can only be offered in countries where law enforcement are actively involved.

On the flip side, company has loosened restrictions on in-app sales from licensed and legal pharmacies and cannabis dispensaries in municipalities where they are allowed.

A new guideline, 1.2.1, covers the content creator economy. The guideline says creator "experiences must not change the core features and functionality of the native app— rather, they add content to those structured experiences." The guideline also mandates that creator content follows existing user moderation and payment rules.

There are a number of clarity changes to the App Store guidelines, too. An update to guideline 2.3.1 clarifies that Apple can remove apps for misleading marketing outside or within the App Store.

For the first time, Apple has made it clear that misleading marketing is also grounds for removal from the Apple Developer Program.

The company has also clarified that apps selling physical gift cards may use third-party payment methods, whereas digital gift cards must be purchased via in-app payments. It has also offered a bit more clarity about email communications for apps that are permitted to use non-in-app store payments.

Additionally, Apple has clarified that apps that do not "provide adequate utility" may not be accepted to the App Store. Other minor changes include reformatting of several guidelines for clarity. It has simplified the guideline relating to inaccurate App Store metadata.

Apple has also expanded the guideline that allows cellular carrier apps to offer bundled music or video subscriptions. The guideline now allows carriers to include other types of subscriptions as long as in-app purchases are supported for new users.

Finally, Apple has added drinking game apps to its list of "saturated" categories.

Alongside the guideline updates, Apple made a few changes to its App Review contact form. Developers can now specify if they believe their app was rejected because of bias or unfair treatment. Also, developers can report other apps if they believe it presents a trust or safety concern.

Follow all of WWDC 2021 with comprehensive AppleInsider coverage of the week-long event from June 7 through June 11, including details on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, macOS Monterey and more.

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