Free iOS MLB app update charges users $125.00 [UPDATED]

Free iOS MLB app update charges users $125.00 [UPDATED]

Summary: Coincidence leads to the linking of the update of the At Bat app and automated renewal of MLB TV

SHARE:
TOPICS: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad
10

UPDATE:

The updating of the MLB At Bat app and the semingly simultaneous charge for the MLB.TV Premium service was not an intentional action, but rather a coincidence related to them both happening before the start of Grapefriut League games today.

As far as the billing for MLB.TV goes, the billing model changed. There used to be the ability to opt-out of the automatic billing, which apparently was the choice selected by myself and the other subscribers I spoke with, but that option was removed, as I was told by the CEO of MLB.COM, because it confused subscribers and lead to thousands of support calls.  

The opt-out option is also not available in the user account management because MLB.COM feels it would be too confusing, So the only option available is to cancel the subscription outright, which can be done within 5 days of being billed for a full refund.

Emails were sent to the more than 450,000 paying subscribers to alert them to the upcoming renewal. It is inevitable that more than a few failed to arrive or were routed by spam filters which would result in the charge being made with the subscriber unaware. The emails give the subscriber the option to cancel their account, but not to opt-out or renew at a different level of service.

For many followers of Major League Baseball, the February 21st update of the MLB.com At Bat application heralded the arrival of baseball for the 2013 season. But for an unknown number of At Bat app users, it also meant an unexpected charge of $124.99 on their credit card.

free-ios-mlb-app-update-charges-users-125-00

In 2012, the At Bat app changed formats and became a free application with the ability for the user to use either in-app or  the MLB.com website to purchase enhanced capabilities ranging in price from $2.99 to $129.00. The top price got the buyer every feature of the At Bat application, on every supported platform, and incudes the MLB.TV capability which allows users to watch just about any out-of-market game on any device that supports the MLB interface, such as mobile apps for iOS and Android as well as TV devices such as the Roku box and even the Microsoft Xbox.

Last year I had given my son the gift of a subscription to MLB.TV Premium, purchased on the MLB.com website. He’s a huge Yankees fan and for us, that’s an out of market team (I don’t know how this happened. You try to raise your kid’s right and something like this occurs. Well, it could be worse; he could be a Mets fan). So I was a little surprised to see a charge appear for $124.99 from MLB.COM appear on my credit card statement.  A call to him confirmed that he had done nothing more than update the At Bat app when the update notification appeared on his phone. I pay for his phone and his iTunes account is linked to my primary credit card.

Not quite sure what was going on I updated my iPhone (with my own At Bat Premium 2012 purchase), and sure enough, I was charged for a new MLB.TV Premium subscription with no additional user interaction. Even with the latest version of iOS, new applications and in-app purchases require that you log into your iTunes account, but it seems that the MLB At Bat update circumvented this and simply charged for the subscription renewal completely silently. No alert in the app description or prompt to log into your iTunes account and confirm that you wanted to spend the money is apparent.

An email to a few friends I was sure would have MLB.TV confirmed that they too had charges for a renewal on their credit cards. Interestingly enough, the $124.99 amount is $5 less than the in-app purchase price or the price listed on MLB.com. Somewhat more ominously, note that my purchases of the MLB.com app were done on the MLB website and not via iTunes.

As the purchase was charged via the MLB.com site and does not appear on my iTunes purchase history, it would appear that MLB is going completely around the iTunes / iOS purchase security model and auto-renewed the account when notified of the subscriber having updated the app.  This might mean that only users who purchased the service directly from MLB.com are affected. It also means that a third-party was able to charge me for in-app activity on my iPhone/iPad without my approval.

Updating At Bat on my Android devices did not result in any additional charges, but that might simply have been because they retained my password and logon information for the account previously setup from my iPhone, which was already renewed.

The support for the MLB app is a form on the MLB.COM website, but I am trying this morning to get ahold of a human who can possibly shed some light on this problem and get an idea of how many subscribers are affected. Given the popularity of the app, this could be a very large number. 

It’s an interesting dilemma; I would have renewed my MLB.TV subscription this year. It’s an amazing application and one of the best uses for an iPad ever created.  But I would like to have had the choice.

Update:

A reader has pointed out to me that if you go to the account management section of your profile on the MLB.com webste you will see that if you purchase a yearly MLB.TV Premium subscription you have been hooked into what used to be called "subscribed until you die."

There is no mention of this during the purchase process, and if you are using MLB.TV on a mobile device there is little to no reason to ever login to your account on MLB.com. Some users have mentioned that they received an email from MLB.com  allowing them to opt-out, but the users I have talked to don't recall seeing any such email.

Once you are logged into your account and select the Audio / Video subscription option, you have this explained and have a large button which says "Cancel Subscription".  Unfortunately there is no indication if you are canceling the auto-subscribe in the future or canceling your current subscription.

 Regardless, the auto-renew should be prominently mentioned when the original purchase is made.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

10 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • MLB At Bat

    It's not the application; on the MLB account; once you sign up for MLB At Bat, it does an automatic renewal when the next season opens up. I had no clue either; and asked for a refund from MLB.com.
    backwerds
  • Users were notified by email 3 weeks ago

    Last year on the 10th anniversary of MLB.tv, I signed up to get the rest of the season for $10 and loved it.

    About three weeks ago, I was sent an email from MLB telling me that if I did nothing, my credit card would be billed for this year's subscription fee unless I unsubscribed before the start of the spring training games on the 20th. I was able to use the link in the email to unsubscribe and now I'm using MLB At Bat lite...at least until I pony up to get game day audio.
    slubber
  • Very disturbing.

    I am sure Apple will be investigating this. They don't like it when they don't get their 30% cut of a purchase. They are missing out on over $40 for every person who updates this app.

    It's also very unethical, possibly even illegal, for a company to put a charge like that on your credit card with no prior notification whatsoever. Are you sure it's not all explained in some fine print where you at some point clicked the "Agree" button?
    PepperdotNet
    • Really now,

      do you expect John and Jane Doe to read the 20 pages that make up an EULA? Every company would do themselves (and users of their products) to have a mini EULA that goes over the big things, like auto-renewal of subscriptions and that you shouldn't be designing weapons of war or managing mission-critical nuclear systems in a powerplant with the software.
      Champ_Kind
  • World Series

    I hear there is a World Series in Baseball, as one of the top UK players I am looking forward to this international competition, I can't wait to play Germany
    Mytheroo
  • MLB

    We subscribed to the MLB TV option last year to get around the no cable, no game, for some of the playoffs, when I subscribed it was in the fine print that it would be renewed for next season, if we did not cancel. I cancelled the renewal in November or December. I don't remember an automatic renewal when we did the same in 2011. Post season is the only time we really wanted it, with Fox Saturday games and some on ESPN3 we had plenty baseball to watch. ESPN3 had only out of market games of course, but it is Baseball.
    This year's College Basketball hasn't been as available as it was last season on ESPN3, I don't know if the schools or ESPN changed the availability or who.
    dhays
  • Really? There's a problem with the autor of this article.

    MLB.tv did send out reminder emails that the renewall was coming, and they sent it to the email account registered at mlb.tv. If you have the full subsription to MLB.tv, there is no way to activate the video feeds on the app without going to the website and registering, including signing off on the terms of service.

    So YOU missed the email. Perhaps the MLB.tv account is registered with your son'e email address. Maybe he forgot to tell you.

    This is not MLB's fault. Not at all. Don't make it out to be otherwise.

    Don't be a weenie.
    amatuerhack
    • Amatuerhack must work for MLBtv

      What do you mean its not MLB's fault? They send you an email that says they are going to renew your subscription unless YOU do something?
      Bottom line is, unless I tell them I WANT it, they have no authority to renew it whether I reply to their email or not. t doesn't work that way. Best Buy doesn't send me an email telling me they are going to charge me for a computer and send it to me unless I tell them otherwise. I know I will be cancelling my subscription because of this.
      sportsman45
  • MLB quick to take...slow to refund.

    I signed up for a playoff game on October 1. The cost was $3.99. I'm certain that mlb did not notify me via email or any other means that my "subscription automatically renewed". I get a lot of emails from mlb (must be signed up for everything). The first human I spoke with at mlb could not even confirm that they were the culprits in the $124.99 heist. Just told they need a few more days to process the "cancellation", this being the 11th day. BTW I did not have an annual subscription last year as mlb claims.
    HickoryC
  • Shady Business Practice

    I have been a subscriber to the AB app for the past two seasons and I have had a great experience being able to view my Yankees anywhere I go. However, this auto renew affair has soured me. The MLB fan in me has been slowly falling out of love over the past few seasons what with Yankee Stadium being demolished in favor of Steinbrenner Land and a number of moves by MLB itself that have shown me that all they really care about is the allmighty dollar. This is a multi billion dollar organization that go that way because of the fans shelling out. I just don't understand why they would allienate a large portion of their fanbase by taking away the right to choose if we want to pay $125 a season for life. Anyway, I made my personal choice to tell them I wanted a refund and I am experiencing the same run around as others have posted. Instant access to my account to withdraw funds, yet I should wait "7-10" business days for MLB to approve my refund and then another 5-7 business days for my credit card or bank to process. I called them on 3/10 and it's now 3/26 with no sign of a refund. I guess I should count my blessings that wasn't the only money I had in the bank. I'm sure there are more than a few who saw an overdraft or a complete zero following this deal. Bad form MLB, but it's becoming expected.
    The Allmighty Dollar