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Google Play to require apps to explain subscription terms, how to cancel

The policy change is meant to prevent deceptive practices from app makers.

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Google Play is updating its subscription policies for apps.

Getty

Google said Thursday it's updating its policies for apps that offer subscription services on Google Play, where people can download apps for Android phones

The new rules will require app makers to be more transparent about subscription terms. That includes better explaining free trials and introductory offers, as well as telling people how to manage and cancel subscriptions. 

The goal is to prevent deceptive subscription services, which can sometimes surprise users with ongoing fees. Apps will now have to be explicit about whether a subscription is required to use all -- or only parts -- of an app. Apps will also have to be up front about the cost and frequency of the billing cycle. For free trials, app makers must tell people what's included and when the trial is over.  Apps will have until June 16 to comply with the new rules. 

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Apps are required to be more transparent about subscription terms.

Google

Google has faced blowback in the past for surprise fees on the Play store. In 2014, the search giant agreed to a $19 million settlement for a Federal Trade Commission complaint about children making unauthorized in-app purchases without parental permission. Google was also forced to change the way it gets consent for those purchases. 

Google on Thursday also said it's putting stricter restrictions on location data. Now app makers will have to ask permission to collect background information while an app is running. The company first announced the change in February.

The policy changes come as people spend more time in front of screens while millions heed stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Google on Wednesday said it's launching a new kids section for the Play store, with "teacher approved" apps for parents on the hunt for child-friendly content. The company said the project was initially scheduled for later this year but was expedited because of recent school closures and the switch to online learning.