Apple needs a better App Store refund method

Apple needs a better App Store refund method

Summary: My personal experience with Apple's refund policy and App developer assistance. I also offer a solution, if anyone's listening.


All sales and rentals of products are final. That is the single sentence under ITUNES STORE, MAC APP STORE, APP STORE, AND IBOOKSTORE TERMS OF SALE of Apple's iTunes Store Terms and Conditions page. In plain English, it translates to a no return policy. In other words, if you buy something that you don't like or don't want, you can't return it. Although, Apple does have a problem reporting procedure under its Support area, I believe that the general rule is that you can't get your money back under normal circumstances. There are a few sites around that explain how you can get your money back using this method but they also tell you that there's no guarantee of any return.

If you call the developer, as suggested in the body of the How to report a problem with your iTunes Store purchase, shown here:

Note: You cannot use Report a Problem for free content or In-App Purchases. For issues with free apps or In-App Purchases, you will need to contact the developer. The developer's contact information can be found on the application's information page from the App Store. To report a problem with a free song, contact iTunes Store Support.

There's still no guarantee of a satisfactory remedy via return or exchange. It's simply a problem reporting avenue.

The following is my very own story that happened just last week.

I've had my OG iPad (iPad 1) for about a year now and I've made a few App purchases that I don't like or can't use. And, to my surprise, there's no good way for me to ask for my money back.

I found the Report a Problem page and procedure, after doing a bit of research and I tried to use it but it didn't work. Each time I clicked the Report a Problem button next to the purchase, it opened a browser to a blank page. Very frustrating.

So, I did more research and found the excerpt shown above about In-App purchases. You can't report an In-App purchase via the Report a Problem method. It states that I have to contact the developer. And, that's what I did next.

The developer's customer service representative listened to my long spiel about my dilemma of selecting audio content, when I really wanted video content and just happened to have tapped the wrong link for the two purchases I made. I should have recorded that call for playback. But, here, to my recollection is how it went. KH is me. CS is the Customer Service rep who I spoke with.

KH: Hi, I bought two audio selections instead of the two videos that I really wanted. Can I exchange them for video?

CS: Hmm, no, that's an In-App purchase and that all goes through the App Store.

KH: So, I can't exchange them?

CS: Maybe, through the App store. We don't handle any of that and Apple doesn't really provide a good method for returns or exchanges.

KH: Really? Wow. So, I'm stuck with these two $3.99 purchases that I don't want and now I have to also buy the video content that I originally wanted?

CS: I'm afraid so, unless you can somehow get Apple to exchange them. We don't have any way to do that.

KH: I'm beginning to see a pattern here that I don't like.

CS: Yes, sir, they just don't give us a way to do it and they don't have a good way either.

KH: Got it. Thanks. Here's another problem I'm having. When I try to listen to the audio content, it crashes the App.

CS: That sounds like an unstable App and the developer will have to fix that.

KH: Your company is the developer.

CS: Right, well, then you'll have to wait for an update.

KH: Great, thanks.

For the total of $7.98, it just isn't worth my time to pursue it any further. Maybe that's what developers are hoping for--that you just don't want to bother pursuing a refund for an App that costs you less than a dollar.

It sounds like a pretty good racket, doesn't it? But, I don't think it's totally Apple's fault. Apple might have assumed that people are smart enough to make good choices. After all, there are App descriptions supplied with the Apps, there is a clear-cut price on the left side of the App description and there are screenshots of what the App looks like in use. I think Apple might have assumed too much in the smart and informed customer realm. In my case, they certainly did and I'm tech savvy.

Unfortunately, not every App works like it should or lives up to its description. There are also Apps that you can buy that state that they're compatible with the iPhone, iPod and iPad but they're really for the smaller form factor of the iPhone and iPod. Sure, they work on the iPad, but it's the wrong format. And, that 2X button doesn't make it better, so don't go there.

I'm not accusing anyone of being less than upright about ethics or business practices but there should be an easier way to get a refund. If you can make an In-App purchase, why not an In-App refund? How about an App on the main page or an option under Settings to remove and refund an App? I don't want to have to open iTunes and mess with its need to update every time I open it and then check my account--it just wears me thin. And, then to subsequently pursue a refund after waiting for a long time for all that updating, rebooting and iTunes restarting. It's just too much trouble.

Over the course of the past year, I've bought maybe $20 in Apps that I consider to be worthless and I've removed them from my devices. I have assumed, like a lot of you, that I have no recourse and can't get a refund. Your mileage may vary but you might be able to get a refund if your complaint falls into one of the following categories:

  • I didn't receive this application.
  • I inadvertently purchased this application.
  • This application does not function as expected.
  • This application is not compatible with my device.
  • I have another purchase or download-related question.

And, then you have room in the Comments section to plead your case. No guarantees.
Will I pursue refunds for my bad purchases? Probably not. Should you? If you have the time and feel compelled, then sure. Why not?

I don't want to call the developer's customer service line again and argue that they are, in fact, responsible for returning my money or giving me an exchange. Too much trouble. And, maybe, if they update the App, I can actually listen to the information, even if I have also bought the corresponding videos.

I'm not one to just complain about something without offering a solution. So, here's my solution. Apple, I hope your taking notes.

As stated earlier, we need a better way to obtain a refund on the device itself via Settings, an App or In-App for those unsupported In-App purchases. Just make a rule that developers have to offer an In-App refund method. Also, I don't want to use iTunes anymore. That's why I updated everything to iOS 5.0. I want everything, including my purchase history, to be kept in iCloud. Why shouldn't it be?

Have you requested a refund from Apple's App Store? Were you successful? How do you think Apple and developers should handle refunds and exchanges? Talk back and let me know.

Topic: Apple


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • I agree

    I agree with this article that a better refund method and, I might add, a better try before you buy method as well.

    Both Google (refund method) & Microsoft (try before buy method) have handled this very well. It won't hurt Apple to implement both of these solutions - with the emphasis on both.
  • That would mean Apple would have to return their 30%

    so why would they want to to that by making it easy to return an App?

    Tim Cook
    • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

      @Mister Spock

      Customer service.
    • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

      @Mister Spock And the developer loses their 70%.... I guess that part for you wasn't important to point out. You only want to be anti Apple, but in the same breath you are possibly anti developer? I don't think so either, but you can't have one point without the other.
  • Sure, but what about you???!!!!!!

    Sure, Apple should have a refund policy of some sort. But, dude, what about you??!!! Do you just blindly buy stuff off the AppStore? I read the app descriptions in the app store, I read reviews by tech magazines, hell, I even see YouTube videos of the app... BEFORE... I pay for the app. Most of your cribbing comes from the basic premise that you will be negligent and Apple should pay for it. I'll go back and repeat: yes, Apple should have a refund policy of some sort, but, dude, what about you???!!!!!!
    • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method


      Sometimes the App doesn't work the way it's supposed to, especially on iOS 5.
  • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

    Just call your credit card company.
  • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

    Under UK law distance selling regulations mean that the seller AKA Apple must allow 7 days from receipt and allow the end user to reject the item and get their money back. The same would apply to in-app purchases.
    • and if the UK law....

      and if the UK law were implemented in this case making a special system for the UK, Apple would be forced to raise the price on all your UK apps... (as they are forced to raise it because of the UK VAT tax)

      far offsetting any benefit a normal person would get from returning 1 or 2 apps....

      but hey go for it... lets see if socialism actually works...

      plus you can get a refund now anyway, the person writing this article got a blank page, for most other people they get a form to fill out... and they get their money back if that is what they state they want, there by satisfying the UK law...
  • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

    Really i just got a refund on the app store after my son bought a app accidentally so i don't know what your talking about it was pretty easy to!
  • Hey, sorry

    Hey Ken - Sorry I burst out like that. Yup, you are right. Every once in a while an app does sound perfect before you buy it but after you do you realize everything's not perfect. I think there might be a lot of people out there who might want their money back.
  • Apple should listen...

    I have both Android and iPad...<br>Purchases from Apple are near zero this year - I have downloaded a few free apps.<br>Purchases from Android Market and Amazon are where it's at. They are getting my money on new app / song / video purchases.<br><br>It is the return policy and the Amaon free a day that pulled me in th Android direction.
    • and you get what you pay for....

      and you get what you pay for.... Android developers have put a whole bunch of crude on the Android stores...making up most of the 600,000 apps they claim, a bunch have long since been abandoned and don't work on any current models... because there is no real quality control ... including 1000's of malware apps that Google finds out after the fact and removes them far later, and in the case of the very good malware, the kind that the professional Chinese and other racketeers use......much later.

      but hey, if it floats your boat that your ID and credit card, and yes your iTunes account password are now on a Chinese server, (your PC malware/android malware are equal opportunity stealers, if you store your contact info and bank info and itunes info on your android/pc synced devices)... then more power to you.

      these racketeer professionals wait sometimes a year or more before they sell specific pieces of information at pennies on the dollar.
  • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

    That's the Apple way, remember the iPhone, you're holding it wrong! They don't like to give money back!
  • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

    I've had a bad experience like many others with inadvertent in-app purchases made by my kids through stuff like TapZoo, etc and run up $200+ charges. Apple and the developers were kind enough to reverse the charges, but after that, I have explicitly disabled in-app purchases, which should be the default.

    Apart from the difficulty in getting refunds, Apple's model of storing your iTunes password for 15 minutes after its entered and indiscriminately passing authentication information between apps for in-app purchases is the nub of the inadvertent in-app purchase problem.

    In typical Apple fashion, though these problems have been known and reported for years, its unlikely they will be fixed.
  • Better refund policy

    I think an even easier method - which could be extremely simple for them to implement would be some sort of stand down period before they charge you.

    Basically, if you remove the app within 4 hours (or 8 or 12 or whatever number they nominate) from your device, then you don't get charged. Easy peasy - and you get time to check it, make sure it works with your device & does what you expected. I think they'd actually *increase* the numbers of app sales by doing this as it would allow a trial period for sometimes quite costly apps.

    Not sure how they'd do that for in-app purchases though.
  • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

    My experience with Apple support was fantastic. In their web form, I selected "the application didn't function as expected" and put in my reason why I couldn't use it. The next day, I got a response saying that they were sorry the application didn't work as expected, and that the money would be refunded in the next few days. No other questions asked.

    The app I purchased was Apple Remote Desktop through the Mac App Store.
  • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

    i ordered the NFL West playoff game last year via Itunes but when I played it, it turned out to be the East playoff game. I contacted Apple and they admitted a problem but they never refunded me. I had to repurchase after they fixed it.
    eddie mello
  • huh?

    Can i just say, you all seem to be extremely picky here, i think itunes explains in detail everything about an app, and if you are still unsure read the customer reviews and the star rating? i mean what apps are you all trying to purchase? if it aint popular or on the top 50 at least, then havent u thought once... why isnt it rated higher? perhaps it dont work? common sense. If tho you are one of those people who have bought the app and left a comment to stop other people purchasing... well bad luck but tbh uv lost what 59p? ??1.99 maybe? i could find that kinda money under a vending machine if i tried. if apple set up a refund everyone would just buy apps, play/use them, complete them, then refund, defeating the object of being a store.
  • RE: Apple needs a better App Store refund method

    The thing that concerns me about "returning" an app or in-app purchase is the implication that Apple (or Google, or whatever app store operator) would have to have the ability to remove the app or content from your device to ensure you are no longer using paid content for free. That's only fair to the developer, right?