Apple will let your subscription apps charge you more money without asking

Apple has updated its App Store policies so that subscriptions can auto-renew without your explicit permission, even if the developer has increased the monthly or annual price. Prior to the rule change, users had to manually opt in to a subscription renewal if it came with a price increase; now that won’t necessarily be the case, although you will still be notified of the price change before it happens. Apple says it’s making the change to help avoid the situation where users unintentionally lose access to a subscription because they missed an opt-in message.

According to Apple’s Monday Night post, there are specific terms that developers will need to meet if they want to offer what the company calls “an auto-renewable subscription price increase.” For starters, this can only be so important – Apple’s rules state that if a developer increases the price of a weekly or monthly subscription by more than 50% and that difference is greater than $5, it is not not admissible. For an annual subscription, developers can always increase the price by 50%, but cannot increase it by more than $50 without requiring an opt-in.

Here are some examples of what this might look like: Let’s say I have a subscription that costs $60 per year. The developers could increase it to $90 ($60 plus 50%) and it would renew automatically without me having to sign up. If I have a $15 monthly subscription and the devs want to bump it up to $22, in theory I should go with that – it’s less than a 50% increase, but above the $5 cap .

However, Apple’s wording leaves things a little hazy: what if there’s an app that costs $10 a year and goes up to $60 a year? Apple’s rules say, verbatim, that consent is required if the price increase is:

More than 50% of the current price; and

The price difference exceeds approximately 5 US dollars (USD) per period for non-annual subscriptions, or 50 USD per year for annual subscriptions.

Reading this literally means that both the conditions should be true to require an opt-in. But the scenario in the example seems so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that’s what Apple intends to do. We have requested clarification on this point and will update if we receive any.

The price can only be increased once a year without requiring an opt-in, which should help prevent scam apps from slowly increasing their price by a dollar or two every two months. Apple also claims that the price increase must be “permitted by local law”, although this is probably a no-brainer.

If any of these conditions are not met, you will still need to accept the price increase or your subscription will expire. Apple says users will be notified of upcoming automatic renewals with price changes through “email, push notifications, and in-app messaging.” It’s worth noting that you could easily reverse Apple’s logic: if users missed those renewal opt-in notices, wouldn’t they also miss those new price change warnings? But it looks like they will be relatively in your face.

We saw evidence that this change was coming — last month, Tech Crunch reported that Apple appeared to be testing this change with a Disney Plus price increase. Developer Max Seelemann has also posted a screenshot in March showing what one of the notifications looked like, though it’s unclear if this is the final design. At the time, Apple confirmed it was “piloting a new commerce feature that we plan to launch very soon” and said it would provide details. It seems that day has arrived.

The screenshot from March shows that next to the “OK” button there is a link that says “to learn more or cancel, review your subscription”. Apple’s message on Monday says it will “also inform users how to view, manage, and cancel subscriptions if they choose,” a promise that appears to be fulfilled by this link.

From my perspective, Apple is definitely making a tradeoff here between usability and convenience. There are probably plenty of people out there who will be glad they don’t have to re-subscribe to something just because the price went up a dollar and they missed a sign-up prompt.

Personally, though, I like to know where every dollar goes – and since I almost always opt for annual subscriptions, it seems like I’ll have to be on the lookout for apps that might go up in price by quite a significant amount. (this $60 subscription was not a hypothetical example). There is a simple solution to this: let users choose whether or not they want the auto-renewing price increases instead of deciding for them. In my mind, it would just be a toggle in the app store settings that says something like “Always ask to opt-in if the price goes up”, and enabling it would make it seem like that change never happened. product.

Apple did not immediately respond to The edgewhether there were plans to add such a toggle.

Or, if Apple wanted to be really user-friendly, it could make subscriptions not auto-renew by default. As my colleague Sean Hollister pointed out in his article on how Apple could show it cares about App Store users, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has a relevant quote (although at the time he was talking about confidentiality):

Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they’re sick of you asking.

With this rule change, Apple has moved away from that even further.

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