Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Opt-Out App Store Subscription Increases

Apple (via Mark Gurman, MacRumors):

Currently, when an auto-renewable subscription price is increased, subscribers must opt in before the price increase is applied. The subscription doesn’t renew at the next billing period for subscribers who didn’t opt in to the new price. This has led to some services being unintentionally interrupted for users and they must take steps to resubscribe within the app, from Settings on iPhone and iPad, or in the App Store on Mac.

With this update, under certain specific conditions and with advance user notice, developers may also offer an auto-renewable subscription price increase, without the user needing to take action and without interrupting the service. The specific conditions for this feature 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. In these situations, Apple always notifies users of an increase in advance, including via email, push notification, and a message within the app.

Mitchell Clark:

Reading that literally, it means that both conditions would have to be true to require an opt-in. But the example scenario seems so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that’s what Apple intends.


It’s worth noting that you could easily turn Apple’s logic on its head: if users were missing those renewal opt-in notices, wouldn’t they also miss these new price change warnings? But it does sound like they’ll be relatively in your face.


There is an easy fix to this: let users pick whether or not they want the auto-renewing price increases instead of deciding for them. In my mind, that’d just be a toggle in the App Store settings that says something like “Always ask for opt-in if price increases,” and turning it on would make it like this change never happened.


Update (2022-05-19): Benjamin Mayo:

In the short term, those same competition forces mean that Apple will have to pull back on some of the customer-friendly In-App Purchase policies to align with the market, to keep publishers onboard.


The vast majority of subscriptions in the world do not work that way. In-App Purchase was a stark outlier. It stood in contrast to even Apple’s own subscriptions like iCloud or Apple One; they increase their price freely with notification, but without consent.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

> 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

Well, I do like that they put these restrictions in, at least.

That said…

> is permissible by local law

Pretty sure none of this is permissible in Germany anyway. You can cancel on a customer if they don't agree to a price change (within 6 weeks, IIRC), but you can't force them to agree.

“let users pick” are the scariest three words you can tell an Apple developer.

I always unsubscribe from auto renewing subscriptions unless it's something I use frequently. If I want to keep it, I'll renew.

So if the user opts in, they can have a subscription change that is impermissible under local law?

The wording of Apple's statement is a mess and really could benefit from some punctuation. The sensible interpretation is that an a customer could auto-renew a subscription with a price increase that: occurs at least a year since the last price increase; does not increase the price by more than 50%; does not increase the price by more than $5 (weekly or monthly subscriptions) or $50 (annual subscriptions); and is permitted under local law.

I'm still curious about "at least a year" part. Is it a year from when the customer last saw an increase or a year from when the price was increased for any customer? I suspect it would be the former. If I have a $10/week subscription and I increase it by $4 in June and $4 in July, a customer who signed up in May would have to opt-in for the second increase but a customer who signed up in June would not.

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