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Android apps caught hugely overcharging customers

(Image credit: Image Credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock)

A number of mobile app developers were caught abusing the strict policies of the Google Play Store (opens in new tab) to scam people out of some serious money. Even though their work was technically legal, it seems as Google is having none of it, as the majority of the apps in question have already been removed.

The scam involves subscription-based apps, trials and a gross overcharging. Commercial apps sometimes offer a free trial so that the potential user can get acquainted with the app’s various tools. Once the trial ends, the user can either unsubscribe and delete the app, or buy the subscription.

And here’s the tricky part – just deleting the app will not suffice, users must unsubscribe first. That is Google’s strict policy, and even though most app developers don’t take advantage of it and equal the deleting of an app to unsubscribing, some aren’t that kind-hearted.

That means that in some cases, people get charged a subscription for an app they’ve previously uninstalled. For most people, and in most cases, that wouldn’t be too big of a deal, knowing that the majority of mobile apps (opens in new tab) charge very little for these subscriptions.

But when you get charged $100 for a subscription, and to a very simple app at that – it’s no wonder most people would feel scammed (opens in new tab).

This is what security researchers from Sophos Labs found two-dozen apps doing. They first sent a list of 15 to Google, who removed 14 of them. Then they sent a list of another nine apps, and most are still available for download.

Sead Fadilpašić
Sead Fadilpašić

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.