Apple is said to be starting to take down iOS apps from the App Store developed in Iran, in what is believed to be an attempt by Apple to abide by trade sanctions against the country issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The largest e-commerce service in Iran, Digikala, has become one of the highest profile apps to have been pulled from the App Store. According to Techrasa, it disappeared from the App Store a few days ago, though no official reasoning behind the withdrawal has been provided.
At present, Apple does not offer an official App Store in Iran, but it did quietly open it up to citizens in September last year, and was seemingly removing some of the limitations over time. Iranian developers and companies have also gotten around the access issue by registering apps to countries outside of Iran, bypassing the restrictions.
Notices from Apple to Iranian developers rejected from the App Store reportedly advise that apps “facilitating transactions for businesses or entities based in Iran may not comply with the Iranian Transactions Sanctions Regulations (31CFR Part 560) when hosted on the Apple Store,” as well as there not being an official App Store in the territory at this time. The notice encourages developers to resubmit their apps “once international trade laws are revised to allow this functionality.”
The sanctions in question prevent the exportation, sale, and supply of goods, services, and technology to Iran and its government, as well as “trade-related transactions,” investment, and the holding of funds in interest-bearing accounts, among other prohibited actions.
AppleInsider has contacted Apple for comment.
Despite the restrictions, there is still a high amount of technology usage by Iran’s citizens, especially of Apple-related services. For example, banks in the country have created their own iOS apps, side-loading them onto customer’s iPhones because of the lack of an App Store in Iran.
Apps, including Digikala, are also able to conduct in-app transactions without Apple’s assistance in the country. The Shaparak payment system is isolated from other international payment processors, allowing transactions between users and businesses without contravening the sanctions.
It is believed there are 40 million smartphones in Iran, with around 6 million iPhones in use, despite trade issues with the country restricting access to technology and other services. Rampant smuggling of iPhones into the country, thought to be around 100,000 devices per month, has forced the Iranian government to take steps to try and allow legal imports.