Why did I receive an email from Apple about manipulating reviews and what is the risk of this

You may have received an email from Apple with the following content: 

We are writing to inform you that your company is not in compliance with the Apple Developer Program License Agreement (PLA).

Section 11.2 (Termination) states:

(f) if You engage, or encourage others to engage, in any misleading, fraudulent, improper, unlawful or dishonest act relating to this Agreement, including, but not limited to, misrepresenting the nature of Your submitted Application (e.g., hiding or trying to hide functionality from Apple’s review, falsifying consumer reviews for Your Application, etc.).

Be aware that manipulating App Store chart rankings, user reviews or search index may result in the loss of your developer program membership.

Please address this issue promptly.

On May 5, 2021, Apple updated the agreement with developers

The reason for receiving such an email: because of the updated agreement - they now check reviews and ratings if your potential and current users receive multiple complaints about the product or requests for a refund.

New points of the agreement:

5.6 and 5.6.1 – 5.6.4: Expanded the Developer Code of Conduct to address additional developer trust and safety issues. New rules in this section require developer identity information to be accurate and up to date; make clear that manipulating any element of the App Store experience such as reviews and charts is not permitted; and that excessive customer reports about concerns with an app may be a factor in deciding whether the developer is complying with the Code of Conduct.

And they made this point that if there are more complaints or requests for a refund than possible, this may be a reason to believe that the developer violates the code of conduct, for example, winds up the rating:

5.6.4 App Quality

Customers expect the highest quality from the App Store, and maintaining high quality content, services, and experiences promotes customer trust. Indications that this expectation is not being met include excessive customer reports about concerns with your app, such as negative customer reviews, and excessive refund requests. Inability to maintain high quality may be a factor in deciding whether a developer is abiding by the Developer Code of Conduct.

Thus, an increased number of refunds or complaints may be the basis for checking the rating and reviews.

We believe that a complaint letter is sent automatically when the complaint limit is reached.

In other words, most likely they check, for example, if the returns are more than 5% and the application rating is > 4.5, then this indicates a suspicious application and an email is sent to the developer.

After receiving such a letter from Apple, we recommend stopping all ordered publications of reviews and ratings for 2-3 weeks and continuing only after waiting for a certain period.

After receiving such a letter and a short pause in the publications, our clients did not receive a ban on applications or other sanctions due to the publication of reviews and ratings.