HELP, Apple suddenly rejecting our app for have a referral code mechanism

Userlevel 1
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We launched our app a few months ago with a subscription model. We allow users to sign up for premium content by subscribing using Apple’s IAP through RevenueCat. One growth strategy that we have to drive’s sign ups is referral codes. On instagram we have a network of affiliates that each have a referral code (i.e. TOM20) which they share with their followers. This code will allow their followers to sign up to a Runna subscription and get a introductory offer (i.e. 20% off first month). To handle this in the app we have a button on our subscription sign up screen (screenshot’s below). If they enter a valid code we will then display them a subscription product that has the introductory offer.

This was all going great, we have been live for a couple of months have gone through many app store reviews. However this week Apple have decided that they do not like and want us to remove it. Below is the response they keep giving:

In-app purchase gives developers the flexibility to support a variety of business models in their apps. However, your app unlocks or enables additional functionality with mechanisms other than the App Store, which is not appropriate under App Store Review Guideline 3.1.1.

Specifically, your app uses a referral code to unlock or enable a discounted subscription.

Are we fighting a losing battle? Or is our approach completely legal? We do not sell the affiliate codes and the only purpose of them is to incentivise users to sign up by offering them an introductory offer. 

If this is against Apple policy what is the recommended way of using Apple Introductory Offer mechanism? Obviously we dont want to give an introductory offer to all of our users signing up for the first time.


4 replies

Userlevel 5
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Hey @Walter Holohan!

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for us to speak to App Store Review Guidelines as it’s totally out of our hands - the guidelines they are referring to seem to be in this section:

If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc. Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase, except as set forth in 3.1.3(a).


Maybe this is falling under using your own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality?

It might be worth filing an appeal with App Review to talk to a `higher up` in App Review about how to become compliant with their rules, but there’s not guarantees there either unfortunately. I’ll leave this thread open in case others have experience here that they can speak to.

Userlevel 1
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@cody thank you for the reply. In the end Apple approved our app. We had to explain to them that our mechanism of allowing users to enter a referr

al code did NOT unlock discounted products but instead allowed users to avail of certain `Introductory offers`. They seemed to be happy with this response. However I wouldnt be surprised if this pops up again in the future. We will add some notes for the App Reviewer so we dont have to keep explaining ourselves.

Badge +4

Hello @Walter Holohan does apple keep rejecting your app up to this day?

Thanks to this post, we get our app approved too 😊

The reviewer simply assumes that we’re offering the free trials using our own mechanism.

Our app got approved immediately after we explain that our free trials are achieved by swapping the product ID for a different subscription group with introductory offer set up.