Google tightens Play Store rules to stop Android app subscription scams

Google has announced a series of new policies to make Android's in-app subscriptions more transparent to users. Starting on June 16th, apps will have to be clear about the terms of their paid subscriptions, and free trials and will need to provide a transparent way for users to cancel them. In addition to the rules for app developers, the Google Play is also providing more information to users directly, notifying them when free trials end or when long-term paid subscriptions are about to renew.

As well as its updated policies on subscriptions, Google is also reminding developers that its new approval process for apps that want background location access will start going into effect in August. New rules are also coming to cut down on deceptive content and deceptive apps.

The aim of the new subscription policies is to cut down on misleading subscriptions and so-called “fleeceware,” where apps are unclear about the terms of their subscriptions and offer free trials in the hopes of tricking users out of their money. Apps that trick users into signing up for costly ongoing subscriptions are not only making it onto the Play Store, but in some cases, they've even entered the top charts, Android Police reports.

Many of the new policies focus on transparency. For example, Google says that developers will need to make it clear if a subscription is required to access all of their app's functionality in order to stop people from thinking they have to sign up just to access basic features. They'll also need to offer more information about the terms and conditions of any free trials.

On Google's side, it's also introducing new features to provide more information to users about app subscriptions directly. Most notably, users will now be emailed before a free trial or introductory pricing is about to end or when a longer-term three-, six-, or 12-month subscription is due to automatically renew. Google will also remind people that uninstalling an app won't automatically cancel its subscription.

The measures are Google's latest attempt to crack down on deceptive apps in its Play Store after it banned hundreds of Android apps for showing obnoxious ads earlier this year.

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