Are you App’y with that App? Clarifying the return and refund policy for Android, RIM, iPhone and Windows7
People’s attitudes to apps baffles me. Like, really REALLY baffles me. The way they react to a rubbish App is completely different to their attitude towards any other purchase they make. If you buy a dress that doesn’t fit you return it. If food is off, you’d get your money back. If you bought Monopoly that was missing the money, well, that’s straight back to the shop. People don’t like faulty, rubbish goods that fail to deliver- so why does that attitude not follow through when they buy applications? It’s REAL money that you have shelled out for that app, so why not reclaim it? You have purchased a service after all, and if it’s not lived up to expectations, well you deserve a REFUND. Refunds are available as well- they just tend to be fairly well hidden.
Before you start rubbing you head and telling me that you don’t need a refund, I’d just like to draw your attention to a few events in recent years. Reclaiming Bank charges. People said it couldn’t be done, that was just the way it was, don’t challenge the status quo, but helloo- the huge excess charges banks whacked on your statement if you were late paying have been declared Unfair by the Office of Fair Trading, and the amount you have to pay has now been capped, rather than spiralling out of control. This change was due to people MAKING a fuss, and getting their voices heard, so never just give up on something because it hasn’t been done yet.
What about the whole UK politician expense charges scandal? For years politicians had got away with letting the public pay for their second houses/ flatscreen TV’s/ moats, and then it all came out, enough was enough, and many hands got more than slapped. Just because something hasn’t been done YET doesn’t mean it won’t be, and I’m sick of the lack of transparency that the various Application stores have in regards to their refund policy. I’m going to tell you just how you can get your money back when you buy an app you aren’t happy with- and what we collectively can do to stop those companies keeping us in the dark about our App purchases.
Buying an Application from an App store falls under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 and the key elements of this (the relevant ones) are that:
- you must give consumers clear information including details of the goods or services offered, delivery arrangements and payment, the supplier’s details and the consumer’s cancellation right before they buy (known as prior information)
- you must also provide this information in writing
- the consumer has a cooling-off period of seven working days.
Whilst most app stores DO give part one and part two of this to purchasers, I think you’ll find that they don’t offer part three- how can a 15 minute window (Android store) be a seven day cooling off period? Whether or not they say you only have 15 minutes to choose your refund, that is illegal in the UK, so you still have the FULL seven days to make up your mind. Just to be clear I contacted the Office of Fair Trading and asked them to clarify whether the application stores were breaking the The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 policy.
Read on to find out what the Office of Fair Trading replied and for my detailed GUIDE ON HOW TO GET A REFUND FROM EACH OF THE FOUR APP STORES- Apple App store, BlackBerry App World, Windows 7 Marketplace and the Android Market.
The Office of Fair Trading replied to be inquiry by saying:
‘Please note that we cannot provide consumers or businesses with advice about how the guidance may be interpreted or applied as ultimately these are matters that only a court can decide. However, individual consumers can obtain practical advice about the DSRs, their rights and resolving disputes with traders by contacting Consumer Direct (CD), a government funded telephone and online service for consumers in Great Britain, which is managed by the OFT.’
Step two involved speaking to the Consumer Direct team. I posed the same queries regarding the legality and lack of transparency of the app store. This is what I heard back:
‘You do get 7 days for your refund- you should get it in writing’. When I clarified what my query was they put me on hold whilst they got a supervisor. This is what they fed back to me. Applications are covered under the Distance Selling Regulations Act AND the Supply of Goods and Services Act. App stores can get away with not giving you a 7 day cooling off period as they can CHOOSE which law they wish to obey, as long as they’re covered by ONE of them. Basically, and I quote ‘ they can get away with not giving you cancellation rights as covered by two laws and sometimes one takes presidence’, When I asked how I could object to this I was told a court needed to decide. I can’t give you what they said in writing as they refused to email it to me. When I asked about transparency and lack of obviousness of the cancellation policies I was told that as long as it’s in the T’s and C’s somewhere (even buried like it is) it’s legally ok- but in my mind, morally dubious.
OK, if you have spent £0.59p on an iFart style app, I get you might not be bothered to get a refund, but if you spend £40 on a GPS service that’s rubbish? Well, then you really want to read my guide!
I’m going to look at four main stores- Android, Apple, Windows7 and BlackBerry. The one key thing that is repeated throughout all four stores is the lack of transparency about how to claim a refund, and the lack of ownership and responsibility taken by those in charge. I’ve put in full details wherever possible- let me know if your experience has been different.
The Android Marketplace: App Refund rules
What they say: You have 15 minutes from the time of download to return an application purchased through Android Market for a full refund. You may only return a given application once; if you subsequently purchase the same app again, you may not return it a second time.
How to Do it: From Market, visit the My Downloads page, and select the application you’d like to return. Press the ‘Unistall and Refund button’, and voila.
How Easy is it to do? Very easy. I tested this out with an application called Spaghetti and Marshmallows, and was able to return it easily within the fifteen minute timeslot.
Issues: Fifteen minutes is a SHORT period of time. I wasn’t sure if it counted from the moment I played the game or the beginning of the download and felt it didn’t give me enough time to judge the game’s worth. (note: It seems to be counted from the beginning of the download)
What if I still want to return it and I’ve had it a week? Android say ‘If you’re unsatisfied with an application after 15 minutes, we recommend contacting the developer directly’. You can find out who the developer is through your Google Checkout account, where it gives you the option to email them directly.
How easy is it to find out the refund policy? The refund policy is quite well hidden-it might come up on Google, but you won’t be able to easily see it when using the mobile device.
The Apple App Store: Refund Rules
What they say: Do they say something? I’m not sure, I was hunting on the Apple site and it was nigh impossible to narrow down their policy. Here are a few gems I found though:
‘You acknowledge that: you are purchasing the license to each Third-Party Product from the third-party licensor of that Third-Party Product (the “Application Provider”); Apple is acting as agent for the Application Provider in providing each such Third-Party Product to you; and Apple is not a party to the license between you and the Application Provider with respect to that Third-Party Product. The Application Provider of each Third-Party Product is solely responsible for that Third-Party Product, the content therein, any warranties to the extent that such warranties have not been disclaimed, and any claims that you or any other party may have relating to that Third-Party Product.’
‘All sales and rentals of products are final.
Prices for products offered via the Services may change at any time, and the Services do not provide price protection or refunds in the event of a price reduction or promotional offering.
If a product becomes unavailable following a transaction but prior to download, your sole remedy is a refund. If technical problems prevent or unreasonably delay delivery of your product, your exclusive and sole remedy is either replacement or refund of the price paid, as determined by Apple.’
both in their T’s and C’s.
How to Do it:
- Open iTunes
- Log on to your account
- Go to purchase history
- Report a problem
- Fill out form with reason for refund (nicely)
- Wait (thanks Pixel Bits for the advice)
How easy is it to do? Surprisingly simple to get there, then you have system crashes to handle. I navigated my way there with no problem, looked through the apps I’d recently bought and reported a problem on one (a real one). Then the system crashed- repeatedly- and I don’t think my complaint went through. Tried again 2 days later and had same problem. Then I got an email from Apple;
‘Thank you for contacting iTunes Store Customer Support. My name is xxx and I am happy to assist you. I understand that the purchased was not up to the mark. Zara, I would like to help you with this, but I could not locate the purchase based on the information you provided. Please respond and include your purchase’s order number and the item name in your reply.You can find your order numbers on your email receipts and in your Purchase History.’
I replied, and then got Email 2, from a new staff member;
‘I understand that the “xxx” application you recently purchased is not compatible with your iPhone. Zara, I have reversed the charge for this purchase. You will see a store credit of 0.59 GBP in three to five business days. You may need to sign out of the iTunes Store and then sign back in before you see the credit in your account. Zara, if you have any other questions for me, please reply back to this email so that I can help you further. Thank you for being a valued member of iTunes family.Have a great day ahead!‘ That was pretty friendly, and the money came back. A day later I got a check up email, ‘I wanted to send a quick note to see if you are still experiencing any difficulties with the iTunes Store. Resolving your issue is important to me, so please don’t hesitate to reply if you need any further assistance.’
Issues: Apple really REALLY don’t make it easy for you to find out how to return an app. They don’t explain refund policy, timeline, anything. I think the cutoff point is 90 days though, thanks to the interweb. It’s not an instant refund like Android either, very much a wait and see.
What if I still want to return it and I’ve had it a week? Same as above.
How easy is it to find out the refund policy? Impossible. You search refund on the Apple site and get nothing. You look through their mounds and mounds of document and still zero. You resort to Google and voila, you get linked to the actual refund policy. The customer service people ARE helpful though, if you manage to find your way to them.
The BlackBerry Store: Refund Rules
What they say: I spent a while researching the rules and found it hard to pin them down, so I emailed BlackBerry support on email@example.com. They replied to me within 24 hours (impressive) and said the following. ‘Please be advised that all purchases through BlackBerry App World are non-refundable.’ I followed this up with an email quoting the Distance Selling Regulation act, saying that ‘ you must offer a refund within 7 days legally; how do you justify not having a refund policy?‘
If you have your order number, application name and why it is not working, and email you use with your BlackBerry ID, I would be more than happy to assist you in obtaining a refund. We do ask that you contact the developer first to see if there is anything they are able to assist with. If you have spoken to the developer, please forward any correspondence in your reply to this email.’
I’m pretty impressed so far with their communication, and asked for more info on their T’s and C’s. This is what they said:
All customers can request technical or billing (refund) support through the following link:
As you do not have a specific refund/return to discuss (true- I wanted more of an overview than a specific refund) it is challenging to provide accurate information to you. With that being said, any refund request that does not meet the requirements outlined in our refund policy (below) will be reviewed on a case by case basis to determine if mitigating factors warrant a refund.
Generally speaking we would expect a customer to request a refund within 30 days from date of purchase. There are certainly exceptional circumstances where we would grant refunds past 30 days as well. A refund request is generally handled within 48 hours, with funds returning to source accounts within 3-5 business days.
For specific information on when refunds are granted please refer to the following information:
For general legal disclaimers: www.blackberry.com/legal
For BlackBerry App World Vendors http://us.blackberry.com/legal/bbaw_vendor.jsp
When I checked this out and expanded it the policy says ‘Vendor must provide RIM and End Users, by means of the Vendor Portal or otherwise, with a support contact email address and may also provide a support URL, to enable End Users to obtain support for Applications. Vendors must provide RIM with at least thirty (30) days’ notice of any change to the Vendor’s support contact information.
How easy is it to do? Once you have learnt how and where to ask for help, the turnaround in service is very good.
What if I still want to return it and I’ve had it a week? 30 days is the average length of time for a refund, though they do offer them on a case by case basis.
How easy is it to find out the refund policy? It’s very complex, it’s hidden within mounds of jargon and waffle, and you have to wade through pages and pages before you get to the vague, badly worded policy. When you go onto the FAQs about the apps, they say this:
‘Can end users request a refund after they purchase an application? View the Digital River refund policy applicable for BlackBerry App World for sales to US customers view the Digital River refund policy applicable for BlackBerry App World for sales to international customers’. The international policy is loooong. Here’s the relevant info:
‘Subject to any warranty offered by a Product’s supplier (“Vendor”), available return policies or as required by law, all sales of products by DR in the BlackBerry App World™ are considered final, subject to the following:
a) If DR does not make the Product available for download by You within a reasonable period of time after completion of the purchase, BlackBerry App World ™ customer service will, in it’s sole discretion, either replace Your order (by providing the Product in a manner that allows You to download the product) or arrange for Your purchase price to be refunded.
(b) If, within 90 days of Your purchase, DR or its Service Providers disable the operation of the Product on Your BlackBerry Software (other than for breach of an applicable agreement by You) and do not make available within a reasonable period a replacement to such Product, BlackBerry App World™ customer service will arrange for Your purchase price to be refunded.
(c) If DR is required by the laws applicable in Your jurisdiction to offer additional refund or warranty rights, DR will provide such remedies as required pursuant to such laws and, where permitted, DR may elect to provide one or more alternative remedies (such as refund, credit, re-performance of Services, or re-provision of Products or alternative Products).
If You feel Your authorized mode of payment has been incorrectly debited, You must notify BlackBerry App World™ customer service, within 30 days of Your Purchase, at BlackBerry.com/AppWorld/support.
This Returns Policy does not apply in respect of any concerns or issues regarding the operation or performance of Products themselves or rights or remedies pursuant to Vendor Licence Terms or other contracts with software publishers, product manufactures, or other third parties.’
Windows 7 Marketplace App Store: Refund Rules
What they say: They say here‘ For Marketplace purchases, unless otherwise provided by local law of your province/state/territory, or stated otherwise at the time of purchase, all charges are non-refundable.’ Every app that you buy offers you the option of a ‘free trial’ first, so perhaps that’s why they think they can get away without offering a refund policy. When you actually go to order the app, a screen pops up: ‘There are no refunds for this purchase’. Just because THEY say that doesn’t make it legal!
The Windows Phone site also says this about refunds (point 8.4): Refund Policy. Unless otherwise provided by law, refunds for purchases will be governed by either a) the refund mechanism independently provided by the application provider for Distributed Applications (if any), b) the Windows® Marketplace for Mobile Refund Policy at http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9677467, or c) the wireless carrier’s refund policy if paid for your application through your wireless carrier bill and your wireless carrier offers an alternative refund mechanism’
Then there was ANOTHER bit of info about app refunds, honestly, can’t there just be ONE place to find all this out? The Microsoft store says some other stuff, but seems to apply only to hardware or products like Office. Here’s one more refund option for you- The Windows Phone Marketplace says, ‘For credit card purchases, each user is allowed one refund per month as long as it is within 24 hours of the original purchase time. The e-form can be found in Purchase Details of your Purchase History section.’ Bollocks to that. One refund a month?
How to Do it: Go to purchase history for Windows Marketplace- here- and then look at your Purchase History. I saw the app I’d bought on there, but as it was more than 24 hours after purchase there was no ‘eform’ as suggested by their help section. When I looked for who to contact for the game, there was NO info, and when I looked at the help topics for Windows 7 Marketplace they took me on a long-winded jolly round webpages to no avail. I was directed to forums ‘look for other’s answers’ and off the site ‘check out what your mobile operator says’ but couldn’t find a simple ‘Help!’ email address to send in a question.
How easy is it to do? Impossible. Couldn’t find the ‘refund e-form’ anywhere, and also couldn’t find a contact email address.
Issues: They say that they do not offer refunds for apps, which is illegal under the Distance Selling Regulations Act. They then contradict this by saying they DO offer some refunds ‘credit card purchases, each user is allowed one refund per month as long as it is within 24 hours of the original purchase time’. Talk about confusing!
What if I still want to return it and I’ve had it a week? If you want to return it a week later you’re not ‘covered’ by their 24 hour refund policy, though you’re still protected by the Distance Selling Regulations Act. However, finding out who to complain too is tricky.
How easy is it to find out the refund policy? Pretty easy actually, there’s just a lot of different looking policies floating around, so hard to know which applies to you. Whether or not it’s honest and accurate, well, you decide.
I approached all these companies from an end user perspective, and didn’t pull any journalist strings for special treatment. My report uses the information that the companies themselves provide (or don’t) that’s on the public domain and I merely collated and assessed them for ease of use and transparency.
Overall, I found that BlackBerry have the most helpful refund service, whilst Android are the best for quick refunds- though they do falter if you take longer than 15 minutes to decide. All companies are less than transparent about their policies and definitely don’t go out of their way to let you know what your rights are- or how to make sure you get your money’s worth. Kudos to BlackBerry for a great customer service department though.
One more gripe- whilst I’m on a roll. You BUY all these apps on your mobile- so why shouldn’t you get refunded the same way? By making you check in on your computer retailers are banking that your laziness will get them extra cash- no fair!