Google has updated its subscriptions policy for app developers to make in-app subscription more transparent. In a blog post, Google states that to continue building the trust between users of the Google Play Store and the apps available on it, developers will be required to provide clear instructions about app subscription plans. Developers need to be explicit about things like the cost of subscriptions, the billing and renewing cycle, and other terms of the offers. The company adds that users should not have to perform any extra steps to get this information and that developers have till June 16 to comply with the updated policy. The new rules are meant to stop the subscription scams in the Play Store.
Addressing app developers on its blog, Google states that users need to be well informed when evaluating apps on the Play Store. The company provides a list of “best practices” the developers should be following. These include providing clarity about whether a subscription is necessary to use all or parts of the app. In addition, if a subscription is not required, the user should be able to easily dismiss the subscription offer. Developers are required to be clear about the cost of the subscription and the frequency of the billing cycle as well.
Google also provides a list of violations in its policy centre that includes not informing the user about automatic renewals and monthly charges, prominently displaying monthly costs for what are annual subscriptions, and unclear pricing and terms of the subscription, among others.
If a developer is offering free trials and introductory offers, they will have to clearly and accurately inform the users about the duration, pricing, inclusions, end date of free trial and beginning of paid subscription, as well as how users can terminate the trial offer if they do not wish to start the paid subscription. If the user already has a subscription, the app should clearly disclose how it can be cancelled or managed.
The aim behind the new rules is to cut down on misleading subscriptions that sometimes trick users with unclear terms and improper information. In some cases, apps offer free trials but do not make the terms clear for the users that ends up costing them a lot of money.
For a better user experience, the search giant has made improvements to the checkout cart for better transparency. Users who have a free trial or are enjoying an introductory price will now get email reminders informing them about the status of their free trial or introductory offer. Renewal reminders will also be sent to users having 3-month, 6-month, or annual plans.
Further, the company states that developers have until June 16 to get their existing apps up to code with the updated policy. Any new app or app update that is published after April 16 will have to comply with the updated policy, Google adds.
It is unclear what the penalties or consequences, if any, the developers will face if they are found not complying with the updated subscription guidelines.