Apple Letting App Companies Charge People Without Their Consent?

By Joseph Farago | 1 month ago

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Apple has recently updated its App Store rules to reflect some internal changes at the company. Now, certain subscriptions to apps could auto-renew without the buyer’s knowledge or consent. This could be troubling for many consumers since app creators could charge more covertly for their monthly subscriptions. If that occurs, unknowing consumers could experience larger phone bills than they expected or can afford.

Before this, people with iPhones were notified if their annual or monthly subscriptions were receiving a price jump. Customers could deny or accept these terms, fully aware of how much the subscription price was being increased. Apple stated that the decision to stop notifying customers about a price change isn’t to trick people, but because customers expressed frustration about missing their opt-in subscription messages. Still, customers being charged without their consent is an issue and could further consumer distrust for Apple.

Though this change in Apple’s policy is understandably frustrating, there are some practical limits the tech company has set for app developers. For developers participating in auto-renewed subscriptions, there’s a price cap for the monthly amount they can increase subscriptions by. If an app has a 50% incline in its monthly subscription price and is higher than five dollars, the app change won’t qualify. The conditions are slightly different with annual subscriptions, where developers can charge more without notice. But apps upping their annual charge cannot exceed more than $50 without notifying the customer first.

Another part of Apple’s policy that might ease many customers’ original fear is that developers can only raise their monthly prices once a year. If they raise it more than once, the apps must notify customers with an opt-in message. The tech company also stated that the increases will have to be “permissible by local law.” If any of these conditions are not adhered to, Apple can reject its proposal to increase monthly or annual payments. Though it’s nerve-wracking to know Apple could upcharge you without your knowledge, the incline won’t be an unreasonable change from prior payments.

Though this App Store policy shift might surprise some, Apple had been teasing this with previous upcharges. Most notably, Disney+ had a monthly increase for its services last month. The subscription price went up by two bucks, and customers were notified of the involuntary change. The only thing included in the notification is a link at the bottom that directs you on how to cancel the subscription. With Apple’s incoming policies, you won’t be notified at all about the subscription change. The lack of communication between this large tech enterprise and its customer base may reverse longstanding consumer loyalty.

What frustrates most people is that Apple isn’t giving customers a choice in receiving opt-in notifications. If the company could allow users to decide whether they need opt-in messages for subscription upcharges, more people could control their spending appropriately. When costs are going up for every product and service, people are increasingly frugal about extraneous expenses. Providing options for consumers is all Apple needs to do to withstand trust between brand and customer.