Apple cracking down on misleading in-app free trial subscriptions

Following an exposé earlier this week that revealed a number of apps using deceptive marketing practices to trick users into signing up for expensive in-app subscriptions, Apple now appears to be cracking down on such apps, according to a follow-up report by Forbes, who originally broke the story earlier this month. According to multiple app develops, Apple has begun “systemically combing through” subscription apps on the App Store, looking for those with potentially confusing terms of service, removing those “that look problematic.” According to one developer, Albert Renshaw, who received a rejection notice after Apple “re-evaluated” their app, it appears that Apple is automatically removing many “non-big-name” apps that are showing high in-app subscription revenues, sending out notices to developers indicating that auto-renewable subscriptions are being “marketed in a manner that may mislead of confuse users about the subscription terms of pricing,” citing section 3.1.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines.

Apple’s main concern seems to be the way the trial button is displayed within the apps, where the company now seems to be insisting that developers make the pricing very clear as part of any free trial offers, and not merely shown in a smaller “fine print” type of font. According to another developer, “They’ve been pulling apps and rejecting apps that have a massive button that says ‘X days free” without the price inside that button. People don’t read the fine print and that’s who they’re after. Before they were lenient but with the negative publicity they’re strict as hell now.” While legitimate apps that offer real value are now being caught up in Apple’s new crackdown, the move is forcing developers to be more transparent to users about the fact that free trials will automatically charge the customers at the end of the trial — something that many iOS users may not be aware of. [via 9to5Mac]

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