Apple App Subscribers Face Price Shock

John Lister's picture

Apple is to let app developers raise subscription prices without users actively accepting the hike. It's a reversal of the current opt-in system for increases.

The move affects subscription apps which most commonly involve music and video streaming services and digital magazines. At the moment, developers can automatically charge customers at regular intervals until the customer cancels.

However, if the developer wants to put the price up, they'll need to show a message clearly marked "Agree to New Price." If the customer doesn't tap on this button, their subscription automatically cancels before the next payment. (Source: macrumors.com)

Only One Hike a Year

Under the new rules, developers can put the price up and continue automatically taking payments "under specific conditions and with advance user notice."

The main conditions are limits on the increase. The cost can only go up once a year, can't exceed $5, and can't be a rise of more than 50% of the previous price. It should be noted that developers can still put prices up more often or by a bigger amount, but will come under the old opt-in rules. Apple also says the new system is only allowed if local laws permit it.

Apple says that when a developer uses the new opt-out system, it will highlight the forthcoming price rise in multiple ways, including an e-mail message, a push notification on the phone screen, and a message in the app itself. It will also remind users how to cancel a subscription.

Apple Explains Change

The new rules have already been tested on the Disney+ app from last month. It appears Apple didn't receive enough complaints - or not enough users noticed the price hike - to deter it from pressing ahead with the change.

According to TechSpot, "Apple says it has implemented the change because some users missed notifications to opt-in when a subscription price increased, causing an interruption in the service and requiring them to sign up again." (Source: techspot.com)

That's certainly a bold claim. The counter-argument would be that a subscription auto-canceling is a simple enough outcome to reverse, whereas extra money being taken from the customer without them realizing (and actively approving) can't easily be put right under the new rules.

What's Your Opinion?

Is Apple right to make this change? Is it sufficient to warn users about the upcoming price rise and leave it up to them to opt-out? Would this change make you more wary about subscribing to an app?

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Comments

doulosg's picture

What?

Can you explain that again, clearly, Dennis?

Can the developer charge more without the user taking action, or does taking action unsubscribe the user? I can't tell!

But since I don't use Apple products, I'm not going to spend time trying to figure it out. I just want to say that if it's so complicated that even you can't explain it clearly, it can't be good for the users.

alan.computergeek@gmail.com's picture

Seems clear to me.

Gurugabe's picture

So they are moving from an opt-in option to opt-out?
"Apple says it has implemented the change because some users missed notifications to opt-in when a subscription price increased, causing an interruption in the service and requiring them to sign up again."

So, some people did not get the notice about the price increase, got their subscription canceled, and now they are switching to opt-out. I see the logic of it is easier to reinstate the subscription than pony up a refund but doesn't it make more sense to fix the notification system instead? If they missed the opt-in notifications, they would be likely to miss the opt-out, and even if the price increases can only happen once a year then some people will likely get extremely frustrated at reactivating their service every year. This may only happen to 1% of subscribers, but for some services like music streaming, 1% is a good chunk of subscribers that could get frustrated enough to cancel their service and move elsewhere.

Chief's picture

I have heard/seen this lame excuse over and over since "convenience" has taken over our lives.

Banks do it with "overdraft" protection where, when you are hacked, they automatically drain your finances until you run out of money - all for your convenience, of course!

Cable companies do it with their services where they "obsolete" or "discontinue" a program and automatically enroll you in a higher priced service - all for your convenience, of course!

Your cell provider does it too. I just purchased a new phone in the store and after reviewing the anticipated monthly charges, discovered I had been enrolled in a new service, at a $5 monthly fee - for my convenience, of course!

With today's text messaging, emails, voice mails, etc., there is no need for paying extra for "convenience" without my permission as I can transfer money while in the checkout line in a matter of seconds using an app or a convenient computer (smart phone, for those in Rio Linda).

If someone somehow convinces my bank to give them my money, I have no problem with the payment being denied. Shoot, I have two-factor authentication on critical services. Just the other day, I got a message asking for further authorization on an invoice. Big whoop! Wasn't mine, so I ignored... now THAT'S convenience!