“You are killing the company”: a Ukrainian startup accuses Apple of unfair competition

Kidslox, a Ukrainian application developer, has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission on account of unfair competition. This was reported by a number of Western media, as well as representatives of the company.

What is the company’s activity?

Kidslox is a Ukrainian startup founded in 2014. It is working on the eponymous parental control application for iOS and Android devices. Kidslox allows you to block harmful content and programs on your child’s phone or tablet, keep track of how much time your child spends on a device, and set time limits for services.

The headquarters of Kidslox is located in Cherkasy. Victor Evpak is the founder and CEO of the startup.

What is the essence of the charges?

Kidslox began to publicly accuse Apple back in 2018: the startup published a blog entry where it stated that the American company was “killing the industry” of parental control. In the Kidslox they said that in the summer of 2018, Apple sent a report of a violation of API use rules to a startup and another company from the industry, Qustodio (also filed a complaint with the EU).

The American company noted that the Ukrainian startup violates guidelines on the use of VPN and MDM technologies – mobile device management. These are critical tools for the operation of the Kidslox application. The first allows you to track the time spent in applications, as well as filter unwanted content – for example, pornography. With the help of the second one, the Ukrainian start-up and other developers of the sphere block applications after exceeding the established time limits.

The Kidslox explains: the startup uses these tools because Apple does not offer other documented ways to implement these features. Moreover, representatives of Kidslox noticed that many APIs for VPN and MDM technologies are used not only by manufacturers of applications for parental control but also by other market players.

“We published the app on the App Store in 2014 and have since updated it more than 50 times. During this time, Apple had no complaints about us.”

In Kidslox they said that after its summer message, Apple refused to update the application five times (as of November 2018). The reason is the use of the company’s tools for “undocumented purposes.”

“Kidslox connects these solutions to the fact that Apple has implemented its own time control function. It happened just in the summer of 2018 — with the release of iOS 12: “[Since then], App Store moderators have systematically searched for reasons and ways to exclude other similar applications from the store.”

What does Apple say?

Apple said they revised their rules because of concerns that apps like Kidslox might collect a lot of information about the device owner. Representatives of the American company assured that they made changes not because they presented their similar instrument.

“We treat all applications equally, including those that compete with our own services. Our goal is to create an ecosystem of applications that will give consumers access to as many quality applications as possible.”

What will happen next

Kidslox and other market players point out that Apple is killing the industry of similar applications. “In our case, Apple’s decision effectively prevents us from further improving the application. The only update they will approve is the elimination of the main function. This will obviously betray the trust of tens of thousands of paying users. If we do not update Kidslox, it will eventually become obsolete,” the company wrote in a blog in 2018.

“In conversations with Apple moderators, I said that there must be a compromise because otherwise, it will lead to the death of a startup. More than 30 people work on the application, and you want to close it,” says Viktor Yevpak.

Pablo Ibáñez Colomo, a professor at the London School of Economics, in a commentary for the publication Wired noted that the EU will carefully consider such cases. This is because these decisions will greatly influence the way the application market works together.