Scam subscriptions plague the App Store | Cult of Mac

Scam subscriptions plague the App Store


App store
There's a whole of money that can be made on the App Store.
Photo: Apple

Subscriptions mean big business for app developers, but this success has ushered supposed bad actors into the App Store. A new article by TechCrunch shines a light on some of these apparent scam tactics, which could cause a headache for Apple.

The feature describes tactics like promising “free trials” that convert into paid subscriptions within only a few days, subscription services that are hard to cancel, and apps that offer paid subscriptions despite functioning the same as freely available apps.

TechCrunch goes on to single out some of the worst offenders and show how much money they rake in. (We’re not linking to the apps in question as part of this article.)

One example given is the Scanner App, which reportedly pulls in $14.3 million a year for its document scanning service. The app offers a free trial that kicks in after just three days — with this information hidden in the fine print. Multiple negative reviews of the app come from users who feel tricked.

Another app is QR Code Reader, which earns $5.3 million a year. For an incredibly simple task which the iPhone camera app can do for free, it charges users $156 per year in subscription fees. This app also converts a free trial into a paying subscription after just three days.

Then there is Weather Alarms, which makes more than $1 million per year, and uses a sneaky interface to get users to subscribe for $20 a month. This app was even featured on screen by Apple at WWDC.

A growing problem

The article contains more examples than these, but this is indicative of the tactics used. As with a lot of this grey area-type scenarios, the app-makers aren’t necessarily doing anything illicit, although the behavior is certainly tricky.

If there’s a fault on Apple’s part, it’s that it, “isn’t making it as easy for users to get to their subscriptions as it could be.” TechCrunch noes how much easier it is to manage subscriptions in Google Pay versus on iOS. It also says that Apple could do a better job policing the App Store charts and app approvals.

Have you run into this issue in the App Store? Do you think Apple is doing enough to combat these type of apps, or is the onus with individual users? Let us know your thought in the comments below.