Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)

Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)

Summary: The Market is improving but don't expect an increase in the refund window beyond 15 minutes any time soon. Google claims developers and users like the status quo. We put that to the test in two polls.

TOPICS: Google

During the Android Market session at I/O 2011, Google revealed a number of long overdue improvements to the Market such as support for larger applications (up to 4GB), the ability to sell in more countries,  and new rankings to promote new and popular programs. However one change requested by some developers and users was explicitly shot down: increasing the refund window for paid applications.

Refunds "R" us

When the Market first opened in October 2008 it supported only free programs. Starting in February 2009, developers could charge for their apps in certain markets. To differentiate the Market from other stores such as the Apple App Store, users could try out paid apps for 24 hours before buying them. Although Google calls this a refund window, the way it worked is that the Market didn't charge your credit card until 24 to 48 hours after your original purchase. If you cancelled the purchase, no charge was made.

The generous 24 hour trial period was removed in December last year when Google reduced the refund window to 15 minutes. They didn't give a good reason for the change, and questions and complaints have gone unanswered until now. Let's take a look at the ongoing reaction to the change and the reasons behind it.

Continue reading: Reaction and poll >

For your convenience: View all comments in expanded form

Not so fast

While 15 minutes is better than 0 minutes, it has obvious problems. Some apps take longer than that to download, install, and configure. Others may require more testing time. Over at the forum, user Futureboy writes:

"Let’s take a look at Quickoffice Pro. It took me 35 minutes to discover the bugs that make the app completely useless for me. To top it all off, I purchased it to replace Spreadsheet which is buggy and is no longer supported by the developers. So between the two, I’m now I’m out $12 and still don’t have a working spreadsheet app. Now, I am very hesitant to put out good money for any app over .99 if I don’t think I can fully evaluate it in 15 minutes."

Another reader named Michael says a longer refund window encouraged him to buy things:

"In the old days I would install a paid app fairly often and get a refund if it didn’t work out for me. I kept quite a few. Now I don’t even consider paid apps unless I have run a free version for a while and concluded that the additional features in the paid version are something I really want."

And JesterOC points out that you only get one chance for a refund:

"I checked out Deathworm when it first came out, and it locked up in the first 5 minutes or so. I refunded it quickly because I knew I was on a timer. Then the developer updated it and described the fixes saying it fixed several lockup issues on 'certain' phones. I was going to buy it again and try it out, when I got a message that said since I already purchased and returned it, I can’t return it for a refund again. Well they lost a sale, I am not sure if they fixed it for my phone, and I’m not tossing 5 bucks away in the hope that they did."

Extend me not

During the I/O conference we asked Google if they had any plans to increase the 15 minute window or allow developers to specify a custom window. The answer was an unqualified "No". When asked to elaborate, a Google spokesman shared this information:

  • Google wants the purchasing experience to be uniform for all apps, therefore all apps need to have the same refund window.
  • The 24 hour window was reduced at the request of developers, specifically developers of short applications like comic books. Publishers complained that users could buy a comic book, read it, and then refund it all within the 24 hour window. Having a 15 minute window fixes that.
  • The 15 minute window starts after the application has finished downloading the app. If the programmer is using the new managed resource downloads (part of the 4GB app limit change that will be rolled out in June) then the 15 minute window will start after the app and all of its resources have been downloaded.
  • When asked if the 15 minute window was negotiable or subject to being reconsidered, the answer was "No".

To back up its decision, Google says they have conducted informal surveys of developers and users and found that most people are happy with the change. I guess they haven't been reading the same forum posts that we have. They also said they had not seen an increase in chargebacks (refunds requested through the credit card company).

The people have spoken. Or have they?

In light of this last assertion we'd like to conduct a survey of our own. Two, actually: one for Android developers and one for Android users. Pick the one that best describes you to vote in. When the poll closes we'll send the results to Google for comment.

Answer just the first poll if you are currently an Android developer or are planning to be one in the next 12 months.

[poll id="27"]

Answer the second poll instead if you are an Android user and have ever purchased or considered purchasing a paid Android app, or are likely to in the next 12 months.

[poll id="28"]

PICK ONE poll if you're both a developer and a user, so we can keep the results separate. Note: Votes are anonymous, but to discourage gaming the numbers, IP addresses are logged.

Please forward these polls to all the Android developers and users that you know. How long should the refund window be? You make the call.

For your convenience: View all comments in expanded form

Image credit: Karan Labra

Topic: Google

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • RE: Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)

    I guess Google is not Agile, eh?
  • Ah

    Ah, there's not place like the Apple app store... happy camper here LOL
    • RE: Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)


      And Apple gives you how long to request a refund?
      Joe Dufflebag
    • huh?

      Huh? Are you dense on purpose? You cannot refund an App bought from Apple.
      • RE: Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)

        @hoaxoner "he AppStore refund policy allows purchasers a full refund up to 90 days from the date of download of any application purchased.."
    • Buy? Never Buy!

      @Hasam1991 It's easy never buy an app! I didn't with the iphone and will not with android either!
      • Re: Buy? Never Buy!

        @bsew64 If everybody has that attitude then you can kiss great apps goodbye.
        Ed Burnette
      • RE: Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)

        @bsew64 You dont get something for nothing. Either you pay a fair price, or you deal with ads. Id rather pay and have no ads, myself.
  • Refund/TImeout option would be nice

    I find great value in trial software for many things and would love to see something like this on the Apple App store. However I do find that some developers offer a a "Light" version of the app with some of the functionality for free or lower cost which is OK, but still think that if there needs to be a refund Window 15 minutes is way too short. 12 - 24 hours is more acceptable. Of course you will always get some people that abuse that and just download the app to use for a short period and remove it but I guess the lesson here would be to make a high quality app that people find useful or entertaining and they will want to pay for it and keep it.
    • Re: Refund/Timeout option would be nice

      As a developer I dislike making "light" versions of my app. What if it doesn't have enough features to demonstrate the app's power? What it if has too many features so users don't need to buy the full version? How do you migrate content and preferences from the light version to the full version? How can you tell people downloading the light version are even set up to buy the full version (country, credit cards, etc.)? Then there's the extra effort of keeping it up to date.
      Ed Burnette
      • Many apps already have full and light versions

        @Ed Burnette Do you remember MusicMatch Jukebox? It had the full version, which included a whole bunch of extras for $19.99, or the free version, which was just a basic music management program. Same with RealJukebox. People didn't have any real complaints other than DRM, from what I remember. Hell, I hate DRM - I can't copy it to just any of my various MP3 players or to a CD mix for MYSELF if I want to. Greedy RIAA.

        Anyway, a good product by nature will sell itself. Marketers don't have to do much work other than let people know the product is out there. Sometimes people will upgrade to the full version for the extras, other times they are satisfied with the light version. I don't buy apps anymore anyway, for that reason; it's not worth it the way the software engineers are trying to tell us, the consumers, how to use OUR devices that WE paid for. Microsoft and Apple are notorious for that, and that's why I go Ubuntu Linux. It does what I tell it to. My android - same deal until Google changes it too much. Then I'll go with a straight Linux PDA.
      • Re: Many apps already have full and light versions

        @ryeckley82 I remember. QuickTime is another example, where not many people got the pro version because they didn't really need it. These are all PC or Mac apps, though, with a price tag 10 times or more that mobile apps are going for.

        There needs to be a model, though, where software developers are compensated and incentivized for their good work. I have a web site where I asked for donations with a Paypal button and do you know how many donations I got in 3 years? None at all.

        So what does that leave us with, ads?
        Ed Burnette
      • RE: Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)

        @Ed Burnette

        As a developer, I found it very easy to make the trial version of my app for WP7 with their API. Being able to try out most apps on WP7 for a short while or a number of tries is great.
      • RE: Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)

        @Ed Burnette Maybe it's a platform thing. What apps do you write? I've bought a lot of iOS apps.
  • Great to have app store competition from Amazon!!!

    • And what does that have to do with 15 minute refund policy?

      15 minutes is hardly enough time to evaluate anything, so how does Amazon selling apps have anything to do wit this?

      This is Google and [b]some[/b] developers putting out crap and not wanting to give the money back.

      A good developer stands behing their work and would have nothing to fear from a 12-24 hour return policy, letting their app speak for itself.
      Will Pharaoh
      • RE: Google refuses to budge on 15 minute refunds, says you asked for it (poll)

        @Will Pharaoh

        A more curated store like Amazon (iOS) would filter out much of the junk apps found in the app market and kick out the scammers. There's the reassurance that when you download an app from iOS (Amazon), that app has already been vetted for you. Not saying every app will be of top quality and you won't find some junk also, but just knowing apps is already vetted gives users that reassurance to buy (not cry about a refund policy). There's just less of a need for such a refund policy on a more curated/vetted store, imo.
      • Good Point

        [i]There's just less of a need for such a refund policy on a more curated/vetted store[/i]

        A good point.
        Will Pharaoh
      • Totally agreed

        @Will Pharaoh I agree with you 100% on that. You know how many open-source developers around the world make products and aren't afraid of the money issue? When the developer is 100% CONFIDENT that they tested it on various devices and it works, there should be no complaint. Now if you didn't test your app and you publish it - that's your fault, not ours.

        Programming 101: 1) write the code 2) DEBUG the code 3) TEST the code 4) compile the code (and release it if open source)
    • There are good quality short apps

      It's not just about "crap apps". Take comic book apps, for example, or short eBooks. Any market, no matter how curated, would allow good apps that happen to have a short life time.
      Ed Burnette