Denmark's Spar Nord bank in app dispute with Apple

Danish bank Spar Nord considers legal dispute with Apple over the supplier’s rejection of mobile app

Danish regional bank Spar Nord is in a dispute with Apple over the launch of subscription management app Subhub. Apple’s App Store has rejected the mobile app for release outside Denmark.

Spar Nord invested in Subhub in late 2016. The mobile app, which acts as a hub through which consumers can manage their subscription-based services, was submitted for approval to the App Store and Google’s Play Store two months ago. While the app was approved by the latter, it has run into complications with Apple after Subhub made changes to its onboarding process (explaining the service for new users) and resubmitted the app. 

“Suddenly [Apple] wrote [to us] what sounded like almost a complete ban of subscription management apps,” Ole Madsen, head of communication and business development at Spar Nord, told Computer Weekly.

Madsen said Apple referred to issues with the app’s functionality – which Subhub says it has clarified – the direct linkage between the app and various kinds of digital subscription services, as well as internal guidelines, which the tech giant did not explain in detail.

The argument Spar Nord has made is that similar apps, such as Sweden’s Mina Tjänser and US-based Truebill, are already available on the App Store. 

Apple has indicated it will approve the app for the Danish market, after changes to the software’s description, but not elsewhere. Madsen said no clear reason had been given for this regional restriction and he hoped it was a misunderstanding, but he emphasised that international reach is essential to the company so it has sought legal council.

“This is a challenge for us because the whole business model for the roll-out was to show traction among [Spar Nord’s] customers and then try to take this international,” he said.

The impasse with Apple has seen Subhub also postpone the app’s release on Android as it wants a cross-platform presence at launch. Subhub is also considering alternative launch formats for the service. These include integration with messenger bots, which would allow it to keep the existing back end and tap into messenger services to connect with users.

But if Subhub decides to continue down the mobile app route, Spar Nord will consider taking the disagreement to competition authorities.

“The fact [Apple] more or less controls the platform that you need to be on to reach maybe half or two-thirds of the market could be worth a general discussion [about] how to govern that position on the market,” said Madsen.

“But whether we are to try that case or not has a lot to do with the roll-out strategy we choose in the end. If we do choose to launch in another format, then maybe it wouldn’t be worth our resources to fight it.”

According to Statista, iOS is the leading mobile operating system in Denmark, with 60.39% of the market, while Android has a significant lead globally, at 71%.

Computer Weekly contacted Apple, but it declined to comment. .......... ............. ...... ...... ....... .... .......... ........... .............

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