Nov 20 2019 10:00 AM
Update 2019, Nov 22: Apple reached out and resolved the situation.
I’ve been unable to access my Apple developer account since August. When I try to access any part of the developer portal, like the beta downloads page or the certificates control panel, I get redirected to a contact form that reads “Need assistance with accessing your developer account?”. My developer team doesn’t show up in Xcode anymore. I’m also unable to manage certificates or send builds of my employer’s developer team apps while logged in to my developer account in Xcode because it says it’s “disabled for security reasons”. The push notification service denies any requests I make to it. Back when the issue first began, I filled out that form and got a case number (20000057023991), with the promise that support would get back to me “in one to two business days”.
After about two weeks of waiting, I decided to call developer support, which sounds easy, but I couldn’t find any phone number to reach them anywhere on the public part of the developer site. The only way to get on the phone with developer support is to visit a page within the developer portal where you can enter your phone number for them to call you later. The problem is that I couldn’t even visit that page because it also redirected me to the aforementioned contact form.
Determined to get someone on the phone, I used my employer’s developer account to be able to reach the phone support page, where I entered my number. Developer support then called me, and I gave my previous case number to a nice person on the other end of the phone, who explained that my case had been escalated to a supervisor, who then escalated it to their supervisor, and that I would hear back from them “soon”. This was in mid September. In early October, I called again and was told I would receive an e-mail explaining the situation, I haven’t.
More recently, I tried calling again and got to talk with a supervisor, who said I would be getting an e-mail with instructions to get my access restored. During the call, they told me my developer account is currently “inactive”. I followed up over e-mail a couple of days later and got a generic response that “the internal team is still investigating the issue” and thanking me for my patience.
Like I mentioned before, the problem began in August. So far I’ve tried every possible private communication channel before deciding to make this story public. It’s worth mentioning that I didn’t get any e-mail or call from Apple warning about any sort of action being taken against my developer account. Apple always says that “running to the press doesn’t help”. Unfortunately, they haven’t responded in any way, even when I tried reaching out through internal contacts that I have. So the only option I have left now is to “run to the press”.
I've read about developers having their accounts shut down for all sorts of alleged reasons. The most recent case happened to my friend Ying, who got his account terminated for “fraud”, which he didn’t commit. After he shared his story publicly, Apple reinstated his account.
In my case, I believe that’s not what happened, since my apps are still in the App Store, ChibiStudio was even featured recently (after I was already locked out). The problem is that I’m effectively not in the developer program anymore. I can’t generate provisioning profiles for my iOS apps, I can’t send push notifications, I can’t even contact developer support, other than by using that form I’m always redirected to.
Until last week, I was still able to upload new builds to the App Store and notarize my apps, but now there’s a new developer agreement and I can’t accept it because I can’t access that part of the developer portal, which means I’m unable to upload new builds to the App Store or notarize Mac apps, which is a requirement if you want to ship apps for Catalina.
To give a brief overview of the impact this has:
- My app ChibiStudio has been in the App Store since 2016, and it currently has more than 100,000 active users. I can’t release updates of the app until this issue is fixed.
- My app AirBuddy, which I released earlier this year, has tens of thousands of users. I can’t notarize new builds of the app, which means I can’t update it.
- The unofficial WWDC app for macOS, which is open-source and also has tens of thousands of users, is an extremely valuable resource for many Apple developers. I’m unable to archive, sign and notarize the app for distribution without access to my developer account, which means I’m unable to update it.
Besides leaving my users out in the dark if I’m unable to provide them with updates, this also severely impacts my income, and the income of my friend who makes the drawings for ChibiStudio.
I’m not sure if this is a deliberate act by Apple or some sort of bug (I remember facing a similar issue a few years ago, but it only lasted a couple of days). I see no reason for my developer account to be blocked. I’m not writing malware, I’m not misusing enterprise certificates like some companies were, I’m not performing any scams (like many apps are), I’m just an indie developer trying to make good products.
I've been an Apple developer since 2008 and have been publishing apps to the App Store since 2013. Apple has made tens of thousands of dollars with what I pay for the developer program plus the 30% cut they take from my sales. I know that's not much for them, but to me it is.
I would like for someone from Apple to reach out and explain what’s happening, and preferably fix the issue so that I can keep shipping my apps to keep my users happy.
Apple, is there anything I can do to get my account unlocked so that I can get back to work?