In recent weeks, TechCrunch and Forbes have both published reports on App Store app that confuse users into buying expensive and recurring subscription plans. Some of the apps identified in those reports have now been removed, which suggests Apple is beginning to crack down on the practice.
On Monday, TechCrunch noted that scammers are using app subscriptions to make promises of “free trials” that convert to a paid membership after a short period of time. It also discovered many of these apps were aggressive in pushing subscriptions or offered little functionality without upgrading. Some apps also made it difficult to stop subscription payments.
TechCrunch and Forbes both found many of the Top Grossing apps in the App Store were in the Utilities category. The former rightly wondered, “How are apps like QR code readers, document scanners, translators and weather apps raking in so much money? Especially when some of their utilitarian functions can be found elsewhere for much less, or even for free?”
After researching the top App Store titles, Forbes found many of were making money through a combination of short free trials and expressive yearly subscriptions. Because of these scams, it concluded some developers had milked “hundreds or thousands of dollars from individual users per year.”
Today, Oct. 16, AppleInsider reported that two of the apps highlighted in the TechCrunch report, QR Code Reader and Weather Alarms, are no longer on the U.S. App Store. Additionally, 11 of the 17 apps mentioned in the Forbes article have also been pulled.
To date, Apple hasn’t commented on any of the reports. However, it should be noted the company’s App Store Review Guidelines make it clear that fraudulent behavior related to subscriptions isn’t allowed.
Section 3.1.2(a) explains, “Apps that attempt to trick users into purchasing a subscription under false pretenses or engage in bait-and-switch practices will be removed from the App Store and you may be removed from the Apple Developer Program.”
What can you do?
The best way to determine whether you’re using a subscription is to visit the Settings app under iTunes & App Store > Apple ID > View Apple ID > Subscriptions. If you see a subscription that you no longer want, click on it and select “Cancel Subscription.”
You should also read our tutorial on how to cancel subscriptions for more information.
Have you spotted a scammy app subscription? Let us know below.