May 29, 2014
In the good old days, Google was pretty liberal with regards issuing refunds to the then Android Market customers who purchased apps. The 24-hr window was lauded as feature, and, to be fair, it was. It gave users a reason to try out apps before fully committing fully, and mostly took care of the issue of having to have demo versions.
But then the belt tightened, and Google slashed the refund window to a much more pedestrian 15 minutes. From a developer standpoint, it mostly made sense, as some folks took advantage of the previous limit to use specialized apps for what amounted to a free session.
As it stands, there are a couple established ways to get a refund. The easiest is the aforementioned 15-minute window refund; a button appears next to the purchase, and if it is performed within 15 minutes, the app is removed from the users library and the refund is applied, no questions asked (there is an additional 48 hour gap that is described further in the Android Police article noted below). Secondarily, one can ask the app developer for a refund of an app; I am yet to see a reputable one that declines in the interest of customer service.
Additionally though, it seems that Google has quietly reupped the refund window to include purchases made longer than 15 minutes for “extenuating” circumstances. The changes were noted by Android Police, which expanded upon and clarified an earlier PSA by iTechTriad.
Now, if one visits the Play Store on the web on a Windows machine and navigates to My Orders (via the gear symbol), one is then presented with the list of purchased items. Hovering over any of the apps reveals a three-dot menu. Tapping on the three dots gives action items depending on the item; for instance, music purchases have a bunch of options, but apps much less. For apps, a “Report a Problem” pop-up appears, and clicking on that yields a bigger pop-up with a “Select a Problem” drop down; the only option that I observed was “I’d Like To Request a Refund.”
Now, tapping on this opens up a dialogue box in which one might explain the extenuating circumstances that deserve a refund.
Interestingly enough, we had an opportunity to test it out. I fell victim to the “buy and disappear” glitch, in which Google Play processes a transaction, but the app still shows as having never been bought. Basically, my money was taken, but I did not have access to the app via the Play Store, as it looked like I hadn’t bought it. Google’s customer service had simply bounced around the problem for more than year. Using this process, the refund was issued after a few days, with a survey to match. It was surprisingly seamless. As far as we know, this can only be done via the web.
Android Police reports that it is possible to retain access to the app, which is an interesting ethical issue. In my case, this was inconsequential, as I was never able to download the app after purchasing.
So the process works, and as noted in the source article, it seems as though Google handles the refund itself, rather than making the developer return the cash. It all comes together very nicely, but of course, Google could pull the plug on this amnesty process if the ROI isn’t there.