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Changes to how refunds are handled in Google Play

If you have a Google Play Developer account you may have received an email regarding changes to the way refunds are handled by Google for paid Android apps and in-app purchase products.

When someone buys an app for Android from Google Play they can 'try it out' for 15 minutes before committing to the purchase. This is because Google allows you to claim a refund for paid Android apps within 15 minutes if you're not happy with them. If the user decides to take a refund within this short window the purchase is registered as revoked, the developer loses the money and the user can't use the app anymore.

If a user of your app claims a refund within 48 hours of buying it but after 15 minutes, they can still be granted a refund by Google but they'll need to put a little more effort into claiming one. The money will still be deducted from the developer and the app will still be unusable after the refund is issued.

All of this functionality is staying the same, there are no changes to anything we've covered so far. The changes apply to refunds issued more than 48 hours from when the app was downloaded.

It's possible to get a refund after this amount of time, but again you'll need to jump through a few hoops in order to claim one. Google will sometimes issue refunds automatically, even after 48 hours, without asking the developer for permission first. There's not much you can do about this other than make the best app possible to avoid users requesting refunds. Previously if a user requested a refund after 48 hours the developer wouldn't lose any money, you'd keep the money the user spent on the app or in-app product.

From now on, any refunds - even those issued after 48 hours - will be deducted from the app developer's payouts.

New Voided Purchases API

Google has created a new API to help app developers to identify when a user is not permitted to use an app or a paid-for in-app feature due to a chargeback, refund or cancellation.

The Voided Purchases API for Google Play allows you to access any transactions that have been cancelled by the user, charged back by their card issuer or refunded by either the developer or Google.

There are some strict quotas in place for the usage of this new API so be sure you don't call it directly from the app. Instead a sever-side or standalone process should be used to query the API on a regular basis to identify any voided purchases. The voided purchase details can then be persisted somewhere you have control over and queried by the app before carrying out an actions that would require a user to have made a valid purchase.

How to minimise refunds

There are a number of ways you can ensure users of your app are unlikely to request a refund. We recommend following these simple rules:

  • Fix issues quickly. Get working on bug fixes as soon as you know about a problem to minimise the number of users it affects.
  • Be transparent about what bug fixes have been made and when so that users can see you're efficient at squashing bugs.
  • Create a high quality and easy to use app that looks and feels like a premium product.
  • Offer a free trial or a free app to show users what they can expect when they pay for the full version.
  • Review pricing regularly. Apps that are considered too expensive can lead to disappointment. For example, in-app purchases could be split across multiple tiers to offer better value.

For more ideas and advice specific to your app, get in touch.

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