iTunes: Transferring the ownership of an app to another company

So for everybody who wants to transfer their apps from one business account to another (because they sold their app or – as we did – founded a subsidiary which focuses on app development) and wonders if this is possible, here’s the story. Unfortunately without an happy end ;-)

As the founding of DonkeyCat was finished we wanted to transfer our apps (Schnopsn HD and Schnopsn Lite) from our mother company hs2n to the newly founded subsidiary DonkeyCat by changing the company behind our App Store Accounts. For Google Play, this was done within a few minutes, for Apples App store, however, we already suspected that it would not be that easy.

So we created a request to change the developer accounts company data in iTunes connect. Very soon (Apple developer support is – despite its reputation – in our experience very responsive) we got an e-Mail with questions and we provided them with answers and documents (like the legal registration) of the new company. Among those questions were the three crucial:

 Has the original company been dissolved, or is the original company still in business?
Has the new company bought or acquired the original company as a whole business?
Is the original company the same legal entity as the new company and is only undergoing a company name change?

None of them was the case, so we answered “no” and sent the documents. Next day I got a phone call from Apple support stating, that if the new business is another legal entity and the old business still exists, the change is by no means possible. Only we could provide legal documentation, that the old company has been dissolved or acquired as a whole, then it would be possible.

For our case, the “solution” would be to create a new account for DonkeyCat and then remove the apps from the old account and re-submit them for the new account.

The only thing that Apple can more or less guarantee is that you can keep the app name, other than that it is the same as submitting a completely new app so you would lose:

  • the update path to all existing, already installed versions of your app – will for sure disappoint your user base quite a bit, especially if you have a paid app
  • all ratings and reviews – for some apps, might be not a bad thing though, but our apps received very good reviews
  • all store rankings and therefore crucial discoverability in the App Store – so most of the marketing would have to start all over again

Furthermore you will have to go through the apple review process again, and even if this process may be quicker than initial submission, the app will be out of sale at least for a few days.

So, in short words: Transferring an App from one business account to another – or changing the legal entity of an existing business account – is simply not possible. 

Sorry, but the “solution” apple offers is nowhere near an acceptable solution, I would not even call this a “workaround”.

This blog entry offers some very good information about the backgrounds – there is some speculation, that apple used the Tax-ID as some kind of key and therefore changing that Tax-ID is technically not possible – may be the case, but why is it then possible to change from individual to business?

At least, changing the bank account to the new company is possible without any problem, but this is also not really a clean solution.

OK, this is also somehow stated – not very easily discoverable though – in iTunes connect documentation so we should have known what we were up to … But as a developers we have to say that Apple should put some emphasis on solving this shortcoming … sure, Apple at them moment provides by far the best best platform – at least from a commercial point of view – for developing and selling apps. As competition – namely Google and Microsoft – is still quite a bit behind in store revenue, they are catching up and in the end of the day the success of a platform is determined by the acceptance of developers that provide high quality apps – so every company, even Apple, is well advised to listen and react to their problems and demands, and we (and pretty sure many other developers) would like to have this solved.

We are realistic enough not expecting to have this solved too soon, and as we are software developers ourselves, we know that a seemingly simple problem seen from user perspective might be a huge issue when looking at it being in the shoes of the people who build the system.

So we will have think of some new strategies for the Schnopsn product line … and who knows, every problem also opens up new opportunities :-)

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