Being able to make returns is an important part of consumer exchange, as regretful purchases occasionally happen to all of us. Sometimes we buy ourselves something nice, only to quickly be set upon by an unfortunate emergency that requires us to get that money back. Or we buy something that turns out to be full of radioactive bees, and must return it as a defective product.
But returning digital apps, particularly apps from Apple’s App Store, is a trickier business. Traditionally, Apple’s policy has always been “all sales final,” with a quiet whisper of “sucker” if you were naïve enough to believe that Pokémon Garnet app was a real game and not just a low-res picture of Pikachu.
A different set of rules now applies in the European Union, wherein Apple is now legally obligated to provide consumers with a requested refund up to 14 days after an app’s purchase. The refund policy can be found in the new European Terms of Service for the App Store. Note that the United States’ App Store policy is still “You touch it, you bought it,” and is likely to remain that way unless the United States Government says otherwise.
This new policy understandably has developers of premium App Store titles a little concerned. What’s to stop someone from downloading a game, finishing it in thirteen days, and then asking for a refund? Nothing yet, but maybe Apple intends to keep an eye on people that do this repeatedly.
Google Play already has a return policy that lets people return apps for a refund up to two hours after purchase. That’s a fair stretch of time, since it’s long enough to get rid of an app that’s buggy or downright horrible.
Google’s return policy actually used to stretch to 24 hours until developers protested. The refund period was then slashed to 15 minutes, which caused users to complain. So two hours is where we’ve been sitting since September of this year.