The Google Play policy has received new updates designed to protect users’ personal and financial information. The new policies include changes to subscription services and location access. Developers of apps requiring subscriptions or featuring location tracking should ensure they are fully compliant. Failure to do so could result in apps being rejected or removed from the Google Play Store.
Google Play’s first policy update includes more transparency for subscription apps. This policy is intended to combat “fleeceware” apps, which use automatic subscription renewals to continually charge users large amounts for minimum functionality.
Google Play’s new subscription policy requires that developers make it clear how their subscriptions work with information such as subscription terms, free trial duration, pricing and how users can cancel. Specifically, subscription apps should:
- State whether a subscription is required to use all parts of an app or specific parts
- Make it easy to dismiss subscription offers for apps that can be used without a subscription
- Be upfront about the cost of the subscription, including how many months users sign up for at a time
- Frequency of the billing cycle
Additionally, apps with free trials or introductory offers should clearly state:
- The duration of the free trial
- How much introductory offers will cost and the price after the trial
- What the free trial includes
- When it will convert to a paid subscription
- How users can cancel or manage their subscriptions
For instance, if an app currently has a “Premium Subscription” page saying “Try Our Free Trial,” that page must be updated to include the length of the trial, price once the trial ends and frequency of the subscription. If an app takes users to a purchase page, each purchase option should include the full price for each option upfront and the length of the subscription users are purchasing.
Google is also helping users stay informed about their subscriptions. This includes email reminders before free trials or introductory prices end, reminders for when subscriptions are about to automatically renew and notifications to remind users who uninstall subscription apps that doing so does not automatically cancel the subscription.
Developers have until June 16, 2020 to update their apps for compliance.
The second policy change is designed to limit unnecessary location access. This is intended to provide users with more control over their location data and to prevent misuse. Google announced a policy change in February that would require developers to receive approval from Google before accessing background location data, intended to ensure that only apps requiring that information for their core functionality can ask for permission. That policy has now gone live.
With the launch of this new policy, apps will be unable to gather background location data unless previously approved by Google Play and granted access by the user. Users can also grant temporary “one-time” permission.
In this case, developers of existing apps have until November 2020 to update their apps and ensure they have the appropriate permissions. New apps must ensure they’re fully compliant by August 2020. This gives developers plenty of time to update their apps to work without background location data or to obtain approval from Google.
These Google Play policy updates can have a significant impact on any apps that offer subscription services or use location data. Developers of such apps should check to make sure that their apps follow the policy guidelines before the deadlines and ensure they have enough time to make changes if necessary.
Apps failing to comply could be removed from the store or have their updates rejected, either of which could have a negative impact on App Store Optimization. Missing an update can prevent an app from launching tests or new metadata, refreshing keyword indexation or addressing errors that users are reporting. These delays could be detrimental to keyword rankings or conversions. Staying up to date with all of the Play Store’s policies can help an app remain active and in good standing on the store.
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