Beware of Changes to Android Market Refunds

Whilst this news is a few weeks old I thought it was still important to bring to the attention of those of you with Android devices.

In conjunction with an update to the Android Market application for the platform, Google also changed the arrangement when it came to automatic refunds for undesired applications. Originally, Google allowed up to 24 hours for a consumer to remove an application from their device after initial purchase to qualify for an automatic refund. In my mind this was a great benefit over Apple’s App Store via iTunes which required a user to grovel to Apple and hope for mercy.

Unfortunately, Google has wound back the grace period of 24 hours down to a relatively small 15 minutes. In most cases this may still be fine for those tiny applications with narrow or limited functionality that come down in under a mute or two giving you about ten minutes to work out if it was what you expected. However, more elaborate or complex applications and those that are physically larger will have less to little opportunity (if at all) to fully test the application within fifteen minutes from the time it was bought.

The real problem here is applications that weigh in over the 50MB limit enforced on the Android Market. At the moment, software developers that need to exceed this limit execute a separate download process upon the first launch of the application. Depending on how much time this takes it can easily chew up the 15 minute grace period (even on Wi-Fi). This is further exacerbated when a user finds out that their device is incompatible with the software (either due to an older OS on the device or hardware limitation).

Personally, I think Google can find some sort of compromise. Of course, developers should be paid for their work and consumer should have an easy mechanism to return a purchase should it not meet their expectations. If I had a say in the matter, I reckon twelve hours would be sufficient so as to allow people time to download the application, look after other things that might be going on in their life (or even have a nap) and then work out if the application was what they imagined. It’d also save Google paying employees to manually process refunds for these instances (after all, Google is in this game to make money and not fritter it away on operational overheads).

Come on Google, you should know better – don’t be evil. Trifling with consumer rights with respect to digital goods is not a step in the right direction.

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