Google cracks down on apps that have vague subscription plans

Google is cracking down on Android apps that feature vague, potentially misleading or confusing subscription plans that leave users uncertain of what they'll be charged and how to cancel the plan. The company is giving developers until mid-June to update their apps to meet the new requirements, Google said in a post on Thursday. The change is good news for Android users.

If you're an Android user, you've likely come across vague or otherwise confusing or frustrating in-app subscriptions at some point. These apps may present a free trial offer without any additional information, the result being a surprise charge — potentially for an entire year of service — without warning. Canceling the subscription may be a murky, difficult process.

In a blog post on its Android Developers blog, Google said that it is putting an end to this with a new update to its subscription policy. Going forward, developers are required to ensure that their apps explicitly detail certain features, including whether a subscription is required to use the app, what features it offers, the cost of the subscription, and when the customer is billed.

As well, any trials or introductory offers must include additional info, including price, duration, when the paid subscription kicks in, and how the trial or offer can be canceled. Google is giving Android developers until June 16 to make sure their apps meet these new requirements.

The idea here is that murky subscription plans not only catch users by surprise but also prove to be bad for the developers. When a user is charged a fee they don't expect, they're likely to be upset, to cancel the plan, and to leave the app a low rating based on that experience even if the app itself doesn't deserve the poor mark.