Tuesday, December 7, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Accounts “Permanently” Blocked

Quinn Comendant (Hacker News, Reddit, 2):

Apple permanently disabled my account today. I’ve lost access to $1200+ of apps that I have purchased through the App Store, my App Store balance, and my music collection of thousands of CDs uploaded to iTunes Match.

[…]

Support unblocked my account again. Both times, they said they were unable to tell me why the account was blocked, except that I had violated the iTunes terms and conditions.

Hours later, my account was blocked for a 3rd time. I called Apple, and they said my account is now permanently blocked. They said there is nothing they can do, and suggested that I create a new Apple ID and start over.

The Apple Engineer I spoke to was confident, “Nobody at Apple can unblock your account.”

Apple Support:

This message is a well-known error that can pop up for multiple reasons. If you’d like to regain access to the App Store and iTunes Store, please contact our billing experts for further assistance.

Quinn Comendant:

I escalated to a senior advisor, who spoke with the iTunes fraud department, and confirmed my account was flagged for using too many gift cards on my account. I explained that the gift cards were purchased legitimately, and I could send receipts. They said there is nothing they can do, and suggested that I create a new Apple ID and start over. It is odd that my account was blocked repeatedly over a couple days, even though the last gift card I applied to my account was Nov 29.

Quinn Comendant:

I purchased [11] gift cards directly from Apple, Amazon, Target, and Citi slowly over the course of two months[…]

I buy them when Amazon and Target have discounts such as “Get $15 Amazon credit with the purchase of a $100 Apple Gift Card”, or “Get 15% discount when you apply Membership Rewards Points towards your order”. The gift cards sold from Amazon and Target are authentic, full-price gift cards.

Quinn Comendant:

I received a call from Isabela with Apple’s Corporate Executive Relations, who explained that my account was blocked in error “because of a glitch” affecting more than a few users. She said they’re working with engineering to fix the problem.

[…]

The real glitch is not the algo, but rather Apple’s obstinance and lack of recourse. I shouldn’t have had to go to the length I did to get this resolved. Apple should have immediately passed my case to an internal investigation team with whom I could have disputed my case.

Mere Civilian (Hacker News):

A few months ago, the balance on my Apple account was running low (less than $100), and therefore, I attempted to add funds to my account using my credit card. My first attempt resulted in an error, and I decided to try again in a couple of days. The very next day, all my Apple devices gave the following prompt when updating apps from the App Store: “Your Account Has Been Disabled in the App Store and iTunes.”

I called Apple Support and was advised that my account has been permanently disabled, and there is no recourse. Apple alleges that I breached the Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions. Despite asking what exactly I did for Apple to terminate my over 10-year relationship with Apple, the answer provided was, please read the Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions. I then asked what does Apple recommend I do. Apple Support representative said: “Create a new account and start from fresh”. This means I have lost all my app and media purchases and the funds in my Apple account.

Via Dave Mark:

This was interesting (and worth reading) on a number of fronts. Part of this is the hoops the poster had to jump through to try to find out why their account was disabled, and the fact that they never did get that info.

As with Comendant:

Towards the end of the week, a kind soul from Tim Cook’s executive team reached out to me and indicated that he would look into my case. A feeling of hope and joy quickly overcame me. He worked behind the scenes with the relevant teams, and within two weeks, my account was enabled and was working.

But no explanation as to why this happened to him. It surely will again to someone else.

To the extent possible, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. And don’t take support’s “no” for an answer.

Previously:

Update (2021-12-16): Isaiah Carew (tweet):

This blog post is my last desperate plea to anyone with any contacts at Apple to please pass this info on to someone that might be able to help before I give up and abandon my online persona and thousands of dollars of apps and media.

12 Comments

Unfortunately, stuff like this is becoming all too common across the entire industry.

I've had Dell, Paypal, eBay and others refuse to do business with me because of some secret fraud-detection algorithm that nobody understands, nobody can explain and where their customer support people have no power to do anything but apologize (without any explanation).

I don't do business with them anymore as a result of their stupidity. If Apple gets like that, I may have to drop them as well, which would really suck because I like their products.

> To the extent possible, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

This. We've become too dependent of too few corporations.

This is why I won't buy media from Apple, Amazon etc and why I don't use Optimized Storage - all data in iCloud is also on the local disks and in local backups. Bad enough that i will lose any apps I bought if this happens.

Sander van Dragt

I’m pretty sure this amount of control over my digital life was why I started moving away from Google.

It's really sad that the only way to have this kind of problem fixed is to get publicity on social media.

I don't use cloud services where I can avoid them and strongly prefer to do business with smaller local providers, where there's a better chance to talk to someone who can acutally fix your problem.

But in the case of app and media stores there is no alternative off course. Therefore I think we need better laws to give customers more leverage when dealing with account blocking issues. Creating a new account is not an adquate solution if it means loosing access to hundreds of Dollars worth of software licences.

Something seems off.
For years I use only iTunes Gift cards bought at Costco for one reason, they're usually 10% cheaper. Never a glitch.

If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.

... except on those few occasions where it does.

The solution is to abolish DRM, of course. The idea that "the market knows all" in the face of such towering monocultures is absurd. Nobody can help you replace your purchases, even if they can sell them back to you. And no law can guarantee the viability of a corporation, or guarantee against loss or sabotage by its employees, without a trustee of digital ownership who could never satisfy either party. Just abolish DRM, FFS. Tell your legislators.

Wow. No one has mentioned that if Apple shuts down your account you lose access to all of your photos stored in iCloud! Not to mention your contacts, calendar, and email. And everything in the Documents folder on your Mac that hasn’t recently been downloaded. Hope it’s in Time Machine. What a nightmare!

Kevin Schumacher

> It's really sad that the only way to have this kind of problem fixed is to get publicity on social media.

Not that there does not need to be fundamental change in what it takes to get this type of situation resolved, but to be fair, executive customer service resolved this situation in the two examples above that are noted as resolved. I’ve had similar good experiences emailing not only Tim Cook (on a completely unrelated issue) but also the then-CEO of AT&T when I was getting the run-around about honoring a promotion for adding lines. The Consumerist (RIP) had a great guide for the executive escalation. It shouldn’t take that level to fix the problem, but the good news is if it gets to their eyes, there’s a much better chance that substantive change of the underlying issue going forward will result.

@Nate Comendant said that he did not lose access to his iCloud stuff, though perhaps he would have been prevented from signing into iCloud on a new device.

It seems to me that denying the use of a product for which one has paid (apps, at the very least), with no explanation to boot, is not something that any company can legally do without risking a lawsuit (were one inclined and disposed to file one). This part seems very straightforward to me.

Severing the relationship and forbidding future use of the service may be at the company's discretion, but I do not see how they can not then owe the user a refund for the portion of money paid for services or products which are no longer accessible.

I'll amend my previous post: while the contract may stipulate that violation of terms of service may result in termination without refund, it should certainly not be legally defensible to not provide any explanation or evidence of same, and an opportunity to contest it.

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