Should Apple Offer 24-Hour Return Policy on iPhone Apps?

iPhone App Store Deals

Have you paid for an iPhone app on the App Store only to find out it was completely useless or wasn't worth the price? Unfortunately, once you have purchased an iPhone app, you are stuck with it forever as there is no return policy.

Google which has a similar App Store for its Android platform called Android Marketplace seems to have a much customer-friendly policy.

Google will let Android phone users return apps within 24 hours of purchase for a full refund.

Google's Android Market Business and Program Policies states:

Returns: You have 24 hours from the time of purchase (not download) to
return any applications purchased from Android Market for a full refund
of any applicable fees. The option to return an application within this
timeframe will be made available to you through the Android Market user
interface.

It would have been good if Apple had a more customer-friendly policy for the App Store like Google especially since iPhone developers currently cannot offer demo versions of their iPhone app which would have allowed users to try the apps before buying them.

iPhone developers have started offering Lite version of their iPhone apps so users can try the free version before buying them but as Icon Factory's Craig Hockenberry points out in his article on pricing iPhone apps (a must-read for iPhone developers) the rules might not be applicable for all apps:

"There are two
basic rules you need to follow when making a Lite version of your
product:

  1. The product must be fully functional. The application must stand on its own and be useful.
  2. The user should not be inundated with “up-sell” reminders. Showing
    BUY NOW every 5 minutes is the quickest way I know to get rejected by
    the App Store.

The hard part, of course, is how to limit functionality. For many
games, it’s pretty easy: you just limit the number of levels the user
gets to play for free. A similar technique can be used for applications
that track data by limiting the number of records that can be added.

But there are many applications that don’t fall into these neat categories. One such application is our own Frenzic. Due to the game’s open-ended nature, there’s not much we can do to set “levels.” Until there is some kind of demo mechanism on the App Store, we’re stuck with advertising, good reviews and word-of-mouth."

So what do you think? Should Apple offer 24-hour return policy on iPhone apps until there is some kind of demo mechanism?

[Androinica via Business Insider]

  • Maz

    Hell yes.

  • 666_69

    Definitely Yes, Apple should have this policy as well. I mean what if you accidentally bought the wrong app? Apple should do something about this.

  • yankii

    definitely!
    ive had to lie about the app not working or make up other excuses just to get my money refunded lol

  • Andrew

    Ehh, I would say no because this definitely hurts programmers more than necessary. This sort of policy does wonders for the customer, 24hours to try a full game before buying, but it can also lead to abuse and also lead to second guessing and than simply returning the product because it isn't that amazing.

    I may be one sided, but in my opinion, a better alternative is simply allow timed trials instead of full on refunds for applications. You can try an application for as long as a programmer wants and they can also decide what features to allow or admit.

    Most consumers like this idea and it is, for consumers. But if used and abused, programmers can shy away from Android and program on other platforms less prone to abuse.

    I understand stores do this, but realize that we aren't talking about the same products and you end up losing time and money returning physical products so it isn't worth buying and returning things continuously. However, digital items are far more accessible and easily returnable thus open to abuse.

    I prefer an agreement that helps both consumers and programmers. The iPhone's approach is screwing customers over (Such as no confirmation of whether you want an item or not and the necessity to create two games just to allow one trial and one full) but Android's seems to screw the programmers over. Any rebuttal is welcomed.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/iphonehacks iPhoneHacks

    Thanks Maz, 666_69 and yankii for the prompt feedback.

    Andrew,

    Thanks for giving us the developer's perspective on the suggestion.

    Isn't it fair from a user's point of view to be able to return the app if it isn't good especially since 24-hours seems to be a fairly small window?

    In my opinion that would keep the developers honest (don't mean to be disrespectful to them).

    I am more likely to download an iPhone app from a developer if I was able to return their app before because I know if it isn't good as they have described I can return it but there is a bigger chance that I like it and keep it. If I can't return an app I will not take the chance of downloading an app from that developer again. It might also result in people trying out more iPhone apps then they do currently.

    But I agree that timed trials would be the ideal solution from both a user and developer perspective.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011278f836a028a4 www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawm1UQW_wrWfa50sCavfcwSipyz84nVPRDQ

    I definitely think the app store should follow the same policy as the android marketplace. I was looking for an app earlier this week to organize my mileage for my company. There were so many options, and I was extremely hesitant to download anything. I finally made a decision, and I would have already returned the app I chose and tried some of the other options, but now I'm stuck with what I have because I'm certainly not going to just eat the cost of the app, and pay for another one.

  • Jesse

    Let's ask blockbuster to refund cost of dvd if you didn't like the movie. And McDonalds to refund you money if you only ate the fries and didn't like the rest. Come on… as a consumer yeah – it would be great, but from a business perspective it doesn't make sense. But… Something like refunding half of the money within 1st hour might be fair.

  • marcus

    definitely yes i have bought a few garbage apps that I wish i could get a refund on, so apple please help us out

  • Kyle Bryers

    Hackers Paradise…

  • Kyle Bryers

    Sorry I meant Cracker Paradise

  • http://profile.typepad.com/iphonehacks iPhoneHacks

    Hey Jesse,

    You make a very good point and as Andrew pointed out it can also be abused.

    So the return policy might end being unfair to the developers.

  • Zorro

    Yes of course they should allow returns. In fact I suspect they are breaking UK law by not allowing returns, but I could be wrong.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011278f9863b28a4 www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawk4MSvkjPk_K8Yv_yrhSxPUQSF33r-u44k

    even a 1 hour policy would be helpful for the pieces of crap that do not even work

  • Zorro

    Jesse, that's a terrible analogy. If you rented a DVD which wouldn't play you would be quite entitled to a refund. As things stand you can download an app or game which simply doesn't work, and you end up out of pocket.

    Kyle. Hackers or Crackers will be running pirated apps anyway, this will not affect them, just us legitimate consumers buying stuff in the app-store and getting completely shafted when stuff doesn't work as advertised.

    I've downloaded about 100 apps, somewhere between 10 and 20 paid. Of those about 3 are so flakey I would like to get my money back as I get no benefit from programs I cannot use. Under UK law I should be able to get a refund on these, which simply do not do what they were advertised as doing.

    In this country if you say "This item does X. Do you want to buy it" Then you buy it, and find it does not in fact do X but does Y, then you are _absolutely entitled_ to a full refund. And why indeed shouldn't you be???

  • Guest

    Once the apps cant be cracked anymore then yeah but at the moment people would just buy, crack and return

  • Chris

    I think there should be 30 day returns allowed on everything (except perishable items). None of this no returns or exchanges stuff, the only exceptions are perhaps when a store is going out of business and has drastically reduced their prices or when items are clearance for less than 1/2 of their original price.

    As for the App store, the easy way to accomplish this is to not charge at all for the first 30 days, if the user delete the Application in 30 days time, they don't get charged for it, unless the redownload it (one 30 day trial per device or account), if they don't delete it in 30 days time, they get charged for it. In addition there should be reminders at 15, 20 and 29 days.

  • CHIEF

    yes il think they should allow returns or just allow a demo version.

  • Geogo3r

    I think what needs to happen is developers need to put it all on the table and hide nothing from the buyer because it's really aggravating from a buyers perspective to buy it and then find out it isn't really what you wanted. For example, I had a friend who bought an app that provided a virtual book and it turned out this didn't include the preface like he needed and he didn't want to go through the hassle of returning and asking for a refund so he just deleted it. Developers can't say it all in a description and buyers shouldn't have to regret. It will be hard to find a compromise between pleasing the buyers and keeping the developers happy and developing.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/iphonehacks iPhoneHacks

    Hey Chris,

    That is wishful thinking :)

  • Guest

    As an iPhone app consumer, I would love to have the ability to return apps I didn't find useful. However, I don't think there needs to be a 24 hour trail period. In my opinion, 60 minutes would be enough. You buy an app, try it for 60 minutes, and if it's not what you were expecting you can uninstall it during that first 60 minutes and not be charged a thing.

    As far as developers are concerned, I think they would benefit from a program like this as well. I have purchased about 10 apps for my iPhone, but I would probably purchase another 40-50 right now if I new I could return the one's that were not what I was expecting. There are so many apps that I would really like to have, but I just don't want to pay for them because I'm not sure if they'll meet my expectations. Sure, I end up returning some, but I'd also end up keeping more then I returned.

    Seems like a win, win to me.

  • alyx

    damn, i dont need 24, give me an hour to sort the crap out. "developers" perspective, my a$$. so you develop apps that have a life span of 24 hrs? let us all know their names so we can avoid them. if i make a quality app that i expect users to actually USE, i ain't afraid they're gonna return it after a day. on the other hand, if i code crap, no wonder i dont want to let go of all my .99$'s, right?

  • JohnC

    I use AMEX to pay for the apps. I have "returned" two apps now as I did not like them. AMEX did a chargeback and returned the money to me. Very easy, one phone call.

  • twilightmoon

    2 issues I see.

    Lower App Sales Price:
    Not allowing people to return apps means that developers cannot charge as much as they might like and have people willing to pay for their apps. If you can't be sure you're going to like an app or that it will work as you'd expect it to, you're not as likely going to be willing to pay as much. So this lowers the cost of apps.

    Crackers:
    If people can return apps, there are people who would buy and crack apps and post them online. Sure they can do that now, but it's limited to what people are willing to pay for. So there would need to be a way to flag people who were doing a lot of this, perhaps only a limited number of returns per day/week/month, and flag people who go over a certain limit, especially without keeping most of the apps they buy.

  • Billy

    MAZ = Michael Anthony Zrimsek

    this is a great idea

  • http://www.changeyourreality.com AP

    Apple should definitely Offer 24-Hour Return Policy on iPhone Apps.

    Is there a petition going anywhere so we can send it to Apple?

  • nm

    Well, fries at McD's and a DVD movie are not in the same category as software…

    If I was renting the download for a single use or say for say 1 day, i would loose just 1 day worth of something if i did not like it, but an outright purchase is not the same. Further, I have 100s of independent reviews available on totally unrelated platforms to help me choose which movie I want to see. I can see trailers before I rent the movie…. i could just go on and on why the likely hood of me not getting what I thought I am getting is miniscule when renting a movie.

    Further, When I rent, say Braveheart, I can get only 1 movie. I do not need to search for 100s od movies about the Scots fighting the English and then try to decide which of these really has the story I wanted to see.

    Thus, when I am looking for a software to buy for good, I do need to see if it truly meets my specific requirements ideally before I pay up, or atleast have the option of returning it and getting my money back.

    The last point why returns of "soft" products is less of an abuse for the developer is that there is no opportunity cost / variable cost incurred by the developer for each time the software is downloaded. Since every additional download is essential the return does not cost the developer anything.

    "From a business perspective" it provides a potential sale if I end up liking the product, but in the current environment, I don't even try it and hence the developer looses the sale while trying to prevent a potential return.

    As oft repeated on this quote, a time bound trial is the best option, but then how is that different from a time bound return policy?

  • Jason-t-jones@hotmail.com

    According to you logic I could buy a car drive it for 30 days and then return it, buy a different car and drive it for 30 days. I would keep getting refunds until I ran out of different makes and models and had to repurchase one. Or how about video games I could buy a $60 video game and return it in 30 days for a full refund. How many games have you bought that you didn't play anymore after the first month. How long do you expect to play a game that cost $.99, 30 days. That would mean you would expect to play a xbox, ps3, wii ect game for 5 years. $60 / $.99 .

  • Kelsey

    Yesss please