French minister defends AppGratis, lashes out at Apple for app’s removal

How do you say, “Oh no they didn’t” in French? Because that’s a pretty good (translated) paraphrase of an interview that Fleur Pellerin, minister of digital economy for the French government, gave Thursday. Pellerin is pretty unhappy with Apple’s decision to remove AppGratis — a company based in Paris — from the App Store.

She called Apple’s decision “brutal” and implied Apple(s AAPL) was behaving unethically, according to accounts of her comments. The decision was made “unilaterally and without explanation,” she complained, according to the Financial Timesadding that “this isn’t virtuous and dignified behavior for a company of that scale.”

Apple’s action may be shocking to Pellerin, but removing an app from the App Store is not uncommon, especially for apps that are breaking the rules. Apple found AppGratis in violation of two iOS developer guidelines. In addition, others have reported — and I have also heard — that AppGratis was selling app makers a guarantee that they could get the app into the top 10 app charts on the App Store, which is a no-no. For its part, AppGratis denies breaking any rules.

What Pellerin wants is for Apple to renegotiate with AppGratis. But that’s not really how the App Store operates: Apple has final approval (its actions are always unilateral) and clearly reserves the right to police its App Store. However, Apple doesn’t generally ban apps for life. If AppGratis makes changes to its app so it’s not breaking rules, there’s probably a really good chance the app will be reviewed and accepted back for distribution.

As I wrote yesterday, part of the problem with these kinds of sudden removals is that they come after months or years of violating the rules. Inconsistent guideline enforcement seems to be what Pellerin is really mad about. Because those rules weren’t invoked earlier, AppGratis was able to build a business and collect millions of dollars of investment.

However, if it makes her feel any better, AppGratis is very unlikely to be the last app of its kind to get dismissed from the App Store. The company is very likely beginning a larger crackdown on app discovery apps that only exist to promote other apps.