Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Developers on Apple’s Platforms Are Now Able to Increase Subscription Prices Without User Confirmation Once Per Year

Last month, Apple confirmed to Sarah Perez it was testing with Disney a new way for developers to increase the price of subscriptions without requiring user confirmation. Today, Apple launched that capability.

Apple developer news:

With this update, under certain specific conditions and with advance user notice, developers may also offer an auto-renewable subscription price increase, without the user needing to take action and without interrupting the service. The specific conditions for this feature are that the price increase doesn’t occur more than once per year, doesn’t exceed US$5 and 50% of the subscription price, or US$50 and 50% for an annual subscription price, and is permissible by local law. In these situations, Apple always notifies users of an increase in advance, including via email, push notification, and a message within the app. Apple will also notify users of how to view, manage, and cancel subscriptions if preferred.

With all those notifications, it sounds like this is a fair change with reasonable safeguards. But in the paragraph immediately prior, Apple gives the impression that opting back into a cancelled subscription is some kind of arduous process:

Currently, when an auto-renewable subscription price is increased, subscribers must opt in before the price increase is applied. The subscription doesn’t renew at the next billing period for subscribers who didn’t opt in to the new price. This has led to some services being unintentionally interrupted for users and they must take steps to resubscribe within the app, from Settings on iPhone and iPad, or in the App Store on Mac.

If this experience is not so great for someone having to re-subscribe after failing to confirm they are okay with a new price, does it not also mean it is not ideal for someone unsubscribing from an app when they want to reject a price increase?

This is going to make a lot of people upset when their $10-per-month subscription can double within two years without their approval. People are going to remember how they feel when they figure that out. I know exactly how I reacted when my internet provider did that to me.

Scrupulous developers will avoid doing anything too extraordinary, but there are a whole lot of App Store developers abusing subscription pricing today. I think I understand the intent, but I do not like the sound of this.