Apple's Latest Rule Change Could Cost You A Bundle

It looks like the rumor that Apple will start allowing app subscription price increases to go through without user confirmation isn't just a rumor anymore. In a blog post on its developer website, Apple confirmed that "under certain specific conditions," apps will be able to increase the cost of a subscription without your acceptance of the new terms. What this means is that if you aren't paying attention when monthly (or yearly) rates go up, a lack of response could be viewed as confirmation on your part. 

Unless you live in a place where the law forbids such automatic price increases, you may suddenly find yourself saddled with a larger bill than you're used to. According to Apple, which cited arguably fringe examples of users not realizing there was a price increase, failing to accept the new terms, then unexpectedly having their service interrupted, this change is meant to be an improvement. That said, it's strange to think that accidentally canceling a subscription when prices go up would be a bigger inconvenience than unknowingly agreeing to pay more for a subscription.

What Apple's app subscribers should know

For what it's worth, Apple has put a couple of stipulations on the automatic renewal changes that should help protect users from uncomfortably high price changes. The automatic renewal at a higher price has to be allowed by local law, for one thing, so whether you have to look out for unexpected price increases will depend on your area. There's also a hard limit on the number of times prices can increase: no more than once per year, according to Apple.

Auto-renewal won't happen if the price increase is beyond a certain threshold. By Apple's example, if the increase exceeds $5 and 50% of the current price (or $50 and 50% for an annual subscription), you'll have to opt in for the change to take effect. The same goes for the previously-mentioned conditions. The company has gone on to state that, in the event of a subscription cost increase that does qualify for automatic renewal, users will receive advanced notice. 

Apple says that if a subscription price is increased, it will reach out via email, push notification, and an in-app message to make sure subscribers aren't caught off guard. According to App Store Connect, notifications will be sent 30 days before renewal for yearly and seven days ahead of time for monthly rate changes. How well this new approach may work, how adequate Apple's notification window may be, and whether this will lead to a lot of surprised subscribers remains to be seen. The new rules have only just started, so only time will tell.