Apple updates App Store rules to prevent tricking users into subscriptions

Posted:
in iPhone
Apple is alerting developers to updated App Store rules and Human Interface Guidelines, spelling out what's acceptable when it comes to selling in-app subscriptions.

iOS 12 subscriptions


Apps must now clearly show monthly subscription prices, and downplay text highlighting what people might save based on their subscription term. Similarly free trial offers must identify how long they'll last, as well as the cost that kicks in once a trial ends.

The new guidelines include sample screenshots and modifiable sample text. Though not required, the company is also urging developers to let people manage subscriptions in-app, rather than force them to change settings in the App Store or iOS Settings.

While Apple's policies previously prohibited fraudulent subscriptions, some apps have still been guilty of things like repeated upgrade prompts and trials as short as three days. In other cases developers have been using outright deception, labeling subscription buttons with text like "Start" or "Continue" and minimizing disclaimers about what people are agreeing to, according to TechCrunch.

Subscriptions are inherently valuable to Apple's services income, since they generate a more dependable flow than one-time purchases. There's been a growing resistance to Apple's revenue cut however, which is normally 30 percent. That can fall to 15 percent, but only for in-app subscriptions active for at least a year.

Companies like Spotify and Netflix have already removed in-app subscription options, directing people to pay on the Web instead. Apple's cut has been described as unfair in the context of subscriptions since it collects money from content it doesn't produce or host.

The rules changes were first spotted by 9to5Mac.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    One would have thought these measures would be obvious from the start, as there are a number of non-App examples of deception dating from the first application sales on the interwebs, and even before, e.g. magazine subscriptions.

    But, it's good that they've finally done something.
  • Reply 2 of 16
    Good change on their part. Could lead scammers to simply redirect users to a web site to subscribe, as Netflix is going to do (and I’m not suggesting Netflix is a scam).
    edited January 28
  • Reply 3 of 16
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,498member
    If Apple catches a scammer charging the button text to trick users into subscribing, I hope Apple bans the developer for life.  That's just fraud in every way.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    zompzomp Posts: 52member
    This will remove Apple's name from deceptive developers by developers pushing clients to their own website. 

    I trust Apple's app store for subscriptions because they make it easy to cancel subscriptions. Match.com for example makes it near impossible to cancel a subscription and apple makes it simple to cancel Match.com's subscription.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 16
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,216member
    One would have thought these measures would be obvious from the start, as there are a number of non-App examples of deception dating from the first application sales on the interwebs, and even before, e.g. magazine subscriptions.

    But, it's good that they've finally done something.
    It's always amazing how you have to create rules forcing people to be clear and honest.
    StrangeDaysbonobobbeowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 16
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,498member
    zomp said:
    This will remove Apple's name from deceptive developers by developers pushing clients to their own website. 

    I trust Apple's app store for subscriptions because they make it easy to cancel subscriptions. Match.com for example makes it near impossible to cancel a subscription and apple makes it simple to cancel Match.com's subscription.
    Years ago, I was in a similar situation with the difficulty of canceling subscriptions.  My bank (BofA) allows the generation of one-time use credit card numbers.  When I sign up for a subscription, I always use that method with the exact amount of money for that one-year length.  It's a really great feeling when I receive an email from those folks stating that my card expired and I will no longer have use of whatever it is I subscribed to. :)
    radarthekatbeowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 16
    Apple's cut has been described as unfair in the context of subscriptions since it collects money from content it doesn't produce or host.”

    While this is true, it’s also true that Apple handles the billing and brings an audience. I’m personally more likely to consider a third party’s  subscription via Apple, because it’s easy to review everything in one place to keep up with it all. 

    There’s probably someone who has worked the math on this somewhere, but consumers knowing there’s an easy way to find and cancel a subscription probably actually generates a certain number of subscribers, and also makes a certain number more relaxed and less likely to actually cancel. 
    coolfactorentropysMacQcradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 16
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,849member
    Now, if they could only make canceling gym memberships this easy.
    randominternetpersonradarthekatbonobobwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    MplsP said:
    One would have thought these measures would be obvious from the start, as there are a number of non-App examples of deception dating from the first application sales on the interwebs, and even before, e.g. magazine subscriptions.

    But, it's good that they've finally done something.
    It's always amazing how you have to create rules forcing people to be clear and honest.
    It’s an openly exploitive economy based on self interest.  If it wasn’t predatory, there wouldn’t be socialists.  It directs the malleable aspects of human nature along anti-social lines (which is why capitalists are anti-social ists).  
  • Reply 10 of 16
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,622member
    joogabah said:
    MplsP said:
    One would have thought these measures would be obvious from the start, as there are a number of non-App examples of deception dating from the first application sales on the interwebs, and even before, e.g. magazine subscriptions.

    But, it's good that they've finally done something.
    It's always amazing how you have to create rules forcing people to be clear and honest.
    It’s an openly exploitive economy based on self interest.  If it wasn’t predatory, there wouldn’t be socialists.  It directs the malleable aspects of human nature along anti-social lines (which is why capitalists are anti-social ists).  
    Socialists are predatory too. They are just using the power of government to achieve their benefit, with a few crumbs to distract the plebs. Same outocome of socialism whether it is communists, fascists or corporatist varieties.  
    A system based on the rights of individuals was proven better overall not because of any inherent vitue, but because every time socialism was tried for more than a hundred years, it failed. And killed people. These are the lessons young, starry eyed dreamers never heed. 
    Never mind, I guess those attempts weren’t true socialism, and it will work better next time.
     /sarc.
    randominternetpersonradarthekatbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 11 of 16
    zomp said:
    This will remove Apple's name from deceptive developers by developers pushing clients to their own website. 

    I trust Apple's app store for subscriptions because they make it easy to cancel subscriptions. Match.com for example makes it near impossible to cancel a subscription and apple makes it simple to cancel Match.com's subscription.
    I can't parse the first sentence.  Are you saying that deceptive developers will abandon iOS or something else?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 16
    zomp said:
    I trust Apple's app store for subscriptions because they make it easy to cancel subscriptions. Match.com for example makes it near impossible to cancel a subscription and apple makes it simple to cancel Match.com's subscription.
    I agree.  I added (and then removed) HBO from my Hulu subscription from within the iOS app and the process couldn't have been easier.  Also, I believe their TOS says you'll only be charged a pro-rated portion of the fee if you cancel mid cycle.  That is a very consumer-friendly choice.  I don't know if Apple or Hulu deserves the credit, but good for them. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 16
    bonobobbonobob Posts: 161member
    mike1 said:
    Now, if they could only make canceling gym memberships this easy.
    For real.  Bally insisted that cancellations had to be by snail mail.  You could sign up online or by phone, but not cancel online or by phone.  I decided that was an unacceptable policy, so I called to cancel.  They said no.  So I called again to cancel.  They said no.  So I called again to cancel.  Etc.  It took at least six calls, but they finally decided it was cheaper for them to cancel my sub over the phone than for me to keep calling their folks in India.  

    There was one time I had to report a credit card stolen to stop the charges (not Bally, I don't remember now who it was).
  • Reply 14 of 16
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,992member
    Good change on their part. Could lead scammers to simply redirect users to a web site to subscribe, as Netflix is going to do (and I’m not suggesting Netflix is a scam).
    That's a good point. We can probably assume Apple bears no responsibility for verifying that redirects to external sources are legitimate. I fully expect the class action lawsuits against Apple will ensure nevertheless. I wish consumers would get over the impulse to remove every middleman from transactions. There are middlemen that actually add value for both buyers and sellers. The universal race to the bottom actually gets us exactly there, to the bottom, in both in quality of products and quality of service. Hooray, we won, and everything sucks. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 16
    joogabah said:
    MplsP said:
    One would have thought these measures would be obvious from the start, as there are a number of non-App examples of deception dating from the first application sales on the interwebs, and even before, e.g. magazine subscriptions.

    But, it's good that they've finally done something.
    It's always amazing how you have to create rules forcing people to be clear and honest.
    It’s an openly exploitive economy based on self interest.  If it wasn’t predatory, there wouldn’t be socialists.  It directs the malleable aspects of human nature along anti-social lines (which is why capitalists are anti-social ists).  
    Let me sum it up in two simple words. Wait for it...Human Nature. Socialists believe they can eliminate evil in people by legislating morality. Capitalists believe each individual should educate themselves enough to avoid scams, you know, personal accountability. I'll choose Capitalism over Socialism any day of the week, because the good far outweighs the bad.
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