27
Jun
20110224233315!Android_Market

Well, this is an interesting turn of events for the Android Market's universally-despised 15-minute app return window. According to the Taipei Times, the Taipei City Government was recently alerted to Google's Android Market return policies - policies that violate Taiwanese consumer protection laws requiring any product bought over the internet to have at least a 7-day "trial period."

Earlier this month, the Taiwanese government gave Google a 15-day ultimatum to revise its app return policies to include the mandatory 7-day trial period, but Google refused to comply. Faced with a $1 million fine for non-compliance, Google, after negotiations with the government broke down, decided yesterday to remove all access to paid apps for Android devices in Taiwan. This, understandably, has a lot of people extremely pissed.

The first question on every Android fan's mind is likely, "Well, what about Apple's App Store non-return policy?" Apple was slapped with the same 15-day ultimatum as Google - but Apple complied with the request. That's right. Apple, regarded by many Android fanboys as the consumer technology anti-Christ, is more willing to change its app return policies than Google. Someone check the temperature in Hell.

The Taipei City Government has called Google's retaliation a plan to "coerce Taiwanese consumers into giving up their rights," and has no intent to remit the million-dollar slap on the wrist until Google institutes a 7-day trial period as part of the Android Market service in Taiwan.

Google's argument? The provision in question of Taiwan's Consumer Protection Act doesn't apply to app stores - because consumers can instantly try an application and make a decision whether or not to keep it in a matter of minutes. While the merits of Google's return window aren't something we want to get into here (trust us - we're not totally on-board with it, either), there's clearly a lot of people that are unhappy with the present state of affairs.

This also raises an interesting question about countries without access to Amazon's Appstore. The Amazon Appstore, like Apple's App Store, does not have any sort of clear refund process or return window. Is this one of the reasons Amazon's Android Market alternative is not available outside of the US? Seems like a pretty legit explanation to us.

Google is continuing to discuss the return policy with the Taipei City government, but paid apps will remain inaccessible on the island nation until an agreement is reached. And if one isn't? We think that's pretty unlikely - Google probably doesn't want to go scratching a country off the paid apps access list.

TaipeiTimes

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • jbonics

    Well apple changed because they just want the money and screw the dev. It seems like more devs will be getting the shaft with a long return policy so google is looking out and tai tai wiwl feegor sommm ting owt.

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    As I've been saying all along, 99% of the time, you've got legal issues to blame for apps not being available to you. Each country needs to be researched extensively and its laws complied with (which is moronic on the Internet, if you ask me).

    • sergiu

      so apple&palm have the resources to do that, and Google doesn't. That's what you're saying, right?

  • http://www.pretentiousname.com Leo Davidson

    Taking their toys and going home is certainly one way for Google to 'solve' the problem.

    OTOH, why don't Google do what many people have been asking them to do forever and leave it up to the app developers how long the refund window is for each of their apps?

    Even without the law in different countries, the 15 minute window is okay (not brilliant) for some apps but completely useless for others that take longer to evaluate and/or download.

    Devs could even choose between:

    a) I want it to be X minutes/days, and where that's illegal I don't want my app to be sold at all.

    b) I want it to be X minutes/days, and where that's illegal I'm okay with the legal minimum, provided it does not exceed Y minutes/days.

    It's not rocket science!

    • Horse

      +1
      The 15 minute return window has stopped me from downloading several paid apps I would have otherwise downloaded, and the "all or nothing" maneuver with Taiwan is infantile. Come on, Google. Do no evil.

  • Josh

    I'd just like to say that I could purchase a games and finish it in about 3 days and return it. Then there would be no point in buying it. 7 days is a little excessive........

  • cruisx

    I dont understand why 15 minuets is not enough? Unless its an RPG I cant see it taking it longer than 5-10 min to test out a game/app?

    7 day refund is stupid as people can finish the game/app and then return it and get their money back. Im loosing $20 a day when people do this with my apps in the 15 min time frame.

    • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

      I'll give you a real-life example. I bought Modern Combat 2 from Gameloft on the Android Market. The initial file is pretty small (1.06 MB), but it actually contains only the minimum to download the rest of the game, which is about 450 MB. There's goes my 15 minutes trial, so I'm taking a guess without any chance of refund if I'm not satisfied, which I cannot realistically know before the trial has expired.

      Oh and there's no demo version. I took a guess on that one, and thankfully I'm satisfied so far.

    • susanrightfield

      Maybe you should make better apps? People aren't returning apps because they are done with them, they're returning them because they don't meet the needs.

      • goukisan

        wow are you that naive?????

    • SiliconAddict

      Try testing out a remote telescope utility in 15 minutes. Just setting the damn thing takes 10 min minimum. Or how about a productivity app that has tons of features. I purchased an app that only after 15 minutes I found out it works with SMS but not Google voice. Well I guess I'm out $10. Thanks Google you ***hats.
      There are dozens of possible reasons. Going from days to 15 minutes is complete asinine.

  • wjrandon

    7 days might be excessive, but 15-minutes often isn't enough time to demo a complex application that requires setup or registation. Perhaps Google should allow developers to set their own refund time limits and allow the free market system determine how people want to demo apps.
    Personally I think 60 minutes is the proper length of time.

    As it stands when people want to try out a application they know will take longer than 15-minutes to get a proper feel of they're going to pirate it first.

  • bobomb

    15 minutes and 7 days are both insane. I love Google, but 15 minutes is wildly anti-customer. 24 hours was fine. It was a good balance. If there were devs whining about their app/game being totally "consumed" in under 24 hours, then they haven't made a worthwhile app.

    OTOH, 7 days is more than enough to finish probably the majority of games, so that makes Taiwan wildly anti-dev.

    All things considered, I would actually have to side with Google on this one. They do need to change the return window, preferably to letting individual devs control it. Certain devs want a 15 minute return window? K, cool. I'm not buying from them. More reasonable return window? Sweet, I'm tryin out the app.

    • Coldman

      A 7-day trial isn't the same as full version limited to 7 days.

      • Zigmar

        Return policy has nothing to do with a "trial" version. They are talking about being able to return a purchased _full_ app within a week.

  • Zigmar

    Well, 7 day is indeed too much for return window. User can easily finish a game or do whetever he needs with an app (i.e. backup-restore). However I neither do like 15 minutes, some large games can even take longer to download. The developer-selected return window is not really a good idea, as it will create confusion and frustration with users, there a need for a clear-cut simple and sensible return window. I actually agree with wjrandon - 1 hour seems like an excellent choice - long enough to evaluate almost anything, easy to remember but not long enough to systematically abuse it.

  • VicM

    The 15-Minute rule is the most insane rule I've ever met. It has caused me to not buy. I'm sure the effected developers would of loved my money, but Google decided to be a prophylactic. I know, put a hat on that robot.

    Let the developers decide in bold text and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Edd

    1) Governments really need to figure out their laws in respect to the Internet. It's ridiculous that a medium that transcenes all borders get confined. I know it's a difficult ask, but it's ridiculous that people get barred from Hulu / Amazon App Store because of the cost/90's vibe of licensing laws.

    2) The 15-minute window sucks. Big time. Anything that highlights this is a good thing. 60 minutes would be fine, even 30 minutes would help. Many developers have not had a few $$s from me, because I don't want to gamble that it's a good use/waste of money.

    3) All of this: "7 days might be excessive, but 15-minutes often isn’t enough time to demo a complex application that requires setup or registation. Perhaps Google should allow developers to set their own refund time limits and allow the free market system determine how people want to demo apps."

  • http://android.blog.hu Gery Greyhound

    I think if Google enables the 7 day trial period, a day or two and there will be a new version of marketenabler on XDA which would allow users all over the world to have access to the taiwanese market...
    iPhone users are less likely to use such hacks, so apple can afford this.

  • homer

    Classic google they did same kind of thing for Turkey too.

  • OFI

    I agree that 7 days is too long. But right now i'm looking at the Sat Nav options available. Probably some of the most expensive applications available on the Market.
    Good luck downloading the maps inside 15 minutes never mind checking the app out.
    they also happen to be apps that frequently have issues with some customers. It's quite a risk on an app that may cost upwards of £50

    Google needs to allow devs to decide on their own refund window. This blanket 15 minutes is nonsense.

    • goukisan

      try going to apple where you cant return an app in america period.

  • http://dx3.psychopyko.com pyko

    I think the devs should be allowed to choose the refund window - with the minimum set by Google... maybe minimum 15min since Google has already set it as that.

    This way, legit devs who know their app needs more than 'x days' can set the trial period accordingly.

    Plus, if this information is made clear (ie. app is '$x' and refund period is 'y days') people can make the call themselves if they want to download the app given the price and refund window.

    If the refund period seems unreasonable for the nature of the app, then maybe it is a warning sign?

  • Gilip

    In EU, there's a 7-day return policy in all countries, and I don't understand why the EU Commision doesn't force Google to respect it.

  • ErOR

    I haven't bought a app yet simply because of the 15min window to test. I don't care if it's enough for some apps, I'm not supporting it. As long as it doesn't get lengthened or Devs are able to change this themselves I will not buy anything from the Market.

    Also for many big games it doesn't even tell you that you will need to download 500MB+, what a joke.

    7 days is just ridiculous.

  • Jake

    Currently there is a security hole opened up with this approach too. If you are in Taiwan you cannot see the page of the app in the Market. Paid apps still get updated though, and if they change their permissions there is no way to see what those changes are. The only reason I have uninstalled paid apps if they suddenly require access to parts of the device they have no right to. Done this three times so far.

  • Andrew

    I also think letting the devs choose would be a good idea.

    Saying that if anyone buys an app I've made and is out of the 15 minute window I'm happy to refund them manually anyway.

  • crotalusfreak

    People devs can choose the refund period, the reason they don't bother offering more than 15 minutes is cause they don't want to. Most of you don't seem to realize unless you got an app in the top spot you ain't making much from android cause android users spend far less than iphone users on apps, and for some reason have a much bigger sense of entitlement like they are owed free apps and excessive refund limits. All along developers have had the option to allow longer refund periods we don't for a reason. If Google decides to allow Taiwan users to try the apps for 7 days I simply wont make any of my apps available in that country its that simple and im sure I wouldn't be the only one to do it. Sorry to tell you guys that think your not buying apps is having an impact is not but its the truth sales haven't slumped one bit and have actually increased since changing from 24 hours. I dont think there will ever be a reversal of the 15 minute refund period which is definitely a good thing, people suffer from buyers remorse alot more when the option is there for some reason. Yeah you could say if an app is good quality it wont have refund problems BULLCRAP its funny that most my apps receive nothing but 4 and 5 star ratings but when someone wants a refund they make up the most lame bs excuses you could ever hear. I applaud Google for basically telling Taiwan to shove it a 7 day refund period for apps is just retarded.

    • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

      I agree with all of your sentiments but one: I don't think that Taiwan should just shove their law. Please allow me to explain:

      Their law was not created to handle Internet sales. I'm willing to bet that this law has been on the books since before the iPhone came onto the market which would be long before Android was even released to the public.

      The Taiwanese law, I do humbly believe, was put in place to protect Taiwanese consumers from fraud, much like lemon laws in the US for car sales. However, the Taiwanese haven't gotten around to updating their law yet for whatever reason.

      While the old law doesn't make sense in this context and could be a net negative for Taiwan, I support the Taiwanese for defending their laws that are currently on the books instead of making an exception. It's always better for things to go through due process, else how can justice be served?

      Government is put in place to protect equal rights, not equal things. Yes, the law needs to be amended or an exceptional case added for mobile apps to have a shorter time window than 7 days.

      • Nil Einne

        Ever since the refund window was changed from 1 day to 15 minutes there have been plenty of discussions about the change and about the period. You're the first dev I've seen who has claimed that developers can choose the refund period. In fact I've read some who said they do want to choose the period, for example some say they do manual refunds but the problem there is it takes their time, they'd much rather Google do it for them. Of course I'm not saying you're wrong but if you have a bunch of developers saying one thing and a single developer saying another, it's normal to suspect the single developer is wrong. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe of the many, many developers, AFAIK not even one, even those developing complex apps like GPS programs or stuff where you need to download 2GB have increased it 30 minutes or longer. I don't know if your licence agreement with Google allows it but if it does I would suggest 'pix or it didn't happen', in other words, show us some screenshots of where you can choose the refund period.

        Also unless you did a detailed analysis it's difficult for you to be sure your sales haven't been negatively affected. I presume you've been enhancing your app? And the number of Android devices is increasing so the number of sales was probably increasing. How long had you been selling before the change? Did you predict where your sales may be now? Have you met your predictions?

        BTW, would you really prefer people a lot of people gave your product 1 star because they found it a POS then them? Or them getting an auto refund? (As a developer, I do hope I don't have to tell you that Android devices vary a lot so even if your app works fine in one device, it doesn't mean it works fine in others. I also hope I don't have to tell you that people vary and not everyone likes the same thing.)

    • Nil Einne

      Ever since the refund window was changed from 1 day to 15 minutes there have been plenty of discussions. You're the first dev I've seen who has claimed that developers can choose the refund period. In fact I've read some who said they do want to choose the period, for example some say they do manual refunds but the problem there is it takes their time, they'd much rather Google do it for them.

      Also unless you did a detailed analysis it's difficult for you to be sure your sales haven't been negatively affected. I presume you've been enhancing your app? And the number of Android devices is increasing so the number of sales was probably increasing. How long had you been selling before the change? Did you predict where your sales may be now? Have you met your predictions?

      BTW, would you really prefer people a lot of people gave your product 1 star because they found it a POS then them just getting a refund for a product that didn't suit them?

    • Nil Einne

      Ever since the refund window was changed from 1 day to 15 minutes there have been plenty of discussions about the change and about the period. You're the first dev I've seen who has claimed that developers can choose the refund period. In fact I've read some who said they do want to choose the period, for example some say they do manual refunds but the problem there is it takes their time, they'd much rather Google do it for them. Of course I'm not saying you're wrong but if you have a bunch of developers saying one thing and a single developer saying another, it's normal to suspect the single developer is wrong. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe of the many, many developers, AFAIK not even one, even those developing complex apps like GPS programs or stuff where you need to download 2GB have increased it 30 minutes or longer. I don't know if your licence agreement with Google allows it but if it does I would suggest 'pix or it didn't happen', in other words, show us some screenshots of where you can choose the refund period.

      Also unless you did a detailed analysis it's difficult for you to be sure your sales haven't been negatively affected. I presume you've been enhancing your app? And the number of Android devices is increasing so the number of sales was probably increasing. How long had you been selling before the change? Did you predict where your sales may be now? Have you met your predictions?

      BTW, would you really prefer people a lot of people gave your product 1 star because they found it a POS then them? Or them getting an auto refund? (As a developer, I do hope I don't have to tell you that Android devices vary a lot so even if your app works fine in one device, it doesn't mean it works fine in others. I also hope I don't have to tell you that people vary and not everyone likes the same thing.)

  • Paul

    This is the perfect opportunity for the struggling Amazon App store to step in. If they can do the 7 day return window, they can offer their app in Taiwan and give local's the ability to download paid apps again. Taiwan native's win because at least they have a way to get the premium apps, and Amazon win's because there will be a lot more incentive for developers to post their apps not only on the market but on their app store as well. The more apps in their app store, the more popular it will be. I'd definitely be hauling tail to get into Taiwan if I were Amazon. It's a sad day when Apple complies and Google, the supposed king of openness (and don't get me wrong, I love Google for the most part) doesn't.

  • http://themaxwellpost.com Alex

    Wonder how Taiwan-based HTC feels about this.

  • Raks

    I too am against the 15 minute policy because in countries like India (where i live), we have to many a times download apps off our EDGE connections and hence it takes lot of time to download and then just having 15 minute is too less. At least anyone needs a day to test the app and if satisfied keep it or remove if not liking it.

  • alvin

    7 days vs 15 mins is a topic to be discussed, but closing all paid service without any warning is another issue.

    Many android users in Taiwan just feel surprised when they found out they can not use these service anymore (include downloading paid apps again) and figure out reason after watching TV news-not from google.

    As this issue occurs in 6/8 and suspension in 6/27, google should have a resaonable time to inform them. It's definitely a decision of disrespect these users, at leaset for me.