Pay attention to renewal notices for App Store subscriptions because these are the only notification you’ll receive that the cost is going up. Developers are now allowed to increase iPhone app subscription prices without users having to opt in.
There are limits on how much the fees can go up, though.
We no longer have to approve subscription price hikes
Subscriptions are supposed to be a win-win for developers and users. Devs get an ongoing income that lets them keep improving the application, and users get apps that steadily improve.
Previously, Apple policy was that users had to opt in when the cost of an auto-renewable subscription increased. That ensured that they wouldn’t be hit with a surprise fee, but also meant that if the user didn’t opt in the subscription wouldn’t renew. “This has led to some services being unintentionally interrupted for users and they must take steps to resubscribe,” Apple wrote in a note to developers.
The policy has now changed. Apple says, “Developers may also offer an auto-renewable subscription price increase, without the user needing to take action and without interrupting the service.”
There are limits on increases in subscription prices
Apple is clearly aware that unscrupulous developers could use the change to try to slip massive app subscription fee hikes past users, so it put limits on the fee increases.
For one thing, users must be notified of the change ahead of time. And not with just an email. Apple says devs must send notifications “via email, push notification, and a message within the app.”
Other important limits are that “the price increase doesn’t occur more than once per year, doesn’t exceed US$5 and 50% of the subscription price, or US$50 and 50% for an annual subscription price, and is permissible by local law,” says Apple.
While Apple has put fairly stringent limits on fee increases in automatic app subscription renewals, a switch from an opt-in system to an opt-out one for raising subscription prices is a dramatic change. If it makes you nervous, now is a good opportunity to check to see what app subscriptions you have and decide whether you want to keep them. Be sure to read the Cult of Mac guide on how to cancel App Store subscriptions.