Seeking damages for California residents who have purchased defective Android apps and were disallowed a refund, Android users Dodd Harris and Stephen Sabatino are suing Google under the pretext that the search giant's 15-minute refund window is unfair.

The pair claim that Google's pocketing of a 30% commission on defective apps and denying a refund after 15 minutes is wrong, using the practices of other app stores (those run by Amazon and Apple) to illustrate their point. This may not be the best comparison, however, as Apple's store has a "vetting process," meaning not all sellers are allowed to provide their wares to the public, whereas Google's Play Store is an open market.

Harris (of Los Angeles) indicated that he bought "Learn Chinese Mandarin Pro" for $4.38, while Sabatino purchased aBTC (a bit-torrent app) for $4.99. The two both claim that the apps were defective, and that they were unable to garner a refund only a short time later. For those interested, here's the full lawsuit:

Android App Class Action

The suit mainly focuses on California's Implied Warranty and Unfair Competition laws and Google's switch from a 48 hour refund window to the severely limited 15 minute span.

While the outcome of this case isn't entirely clear, mocoNews rightly points out that California has "what many consider to be the country's strongest consumer-protection laws." Of course, we'll be here to cover any news that may develop surrounding the lawsuit in the future.

Via mocoNews.net

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • caliber

    I thought there are no refunds at all on Apple App Store?

    • scott

      There isn't, however if you jump through a few hoops you can get a refund. When I had my iPod Touch I did that on a couple of apps.

    • Jays2Kings

      Yeah I thought the same with Amazon as well.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

      There is a process to get refunds on the Apple Appstore but it requires contacting support and giving a reason. In essence, it's about the same as the returns desk at most types of stores, you're expected to do more than just click a couple of buttons. Apple also doesn't have to honor the request for a refund.

      As far as I'm aware, Amazon has an absolute no-refund policy, which is odd since their apps are more locked down than anybody's (from the sense of being able to revoke an app a person has purchased).

      • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com PixelSlave

        That is not true in many stores, especially for the big national chains. Many of them have 30 day money back guarantee. Even if they ask you for a reason, you can give any response. I've even seen someone returned a half-eaten cake to Costco and the Costco staff didn't even ask him for a reason.

        • cosmic

          There is a reason Costco is consistently rated in the top 10 for return policies lol.

        • Ishken

          This is exactly why companies have terms of service agreements. All Google has to do is print our their agreement to the TOS that is connected to their Play Store account. Then, highlight the areas where Google outlines the 15 minute return window policy.

          This is just a case of two people who represent this growing minority of idiots who don't read and vet out the apps they are buying. BUYING. Most people I know and including myself vet the FREE apps.

          The bogus apps aren't even among the featured or most popular or highest rated. Where people keep finding them is beyond me.

          Read the TOS, vet the apps you buy and read the comments left behind, good and bad. It isn't hard, at all. I hope their case gets thrown out of court for being a ridiculous waste of the courts time.

    • Jaymoon

      Not to defend Apple, but when purchasing something through iTunes, it is "expected" that there won't be a refund. So buyer beware I suppose.

      With Android however, they tell you "oh if you don't like, just simply refund it and you'll get your money back!". Which I'm sure a lot of buyers figure, "what do I have to lose?".

      But I've come across many games that take waaaaay longer than 15 mins to download the required game data, all to find out in the end that the game is defective or isn't completely compatible.

      And then, to no fault of the app developer at all, when the Mark... errr... Google Play Store decides to screw up and not actually download an item, it could take 15 mins to actually get the app running. All to the users discovery that it's not what they wanted, but, oh gee, too bad, the refund window is gone.

      • andddlay

        Didn't google recently(ish) announce that the refund window wouldn't start until after all of the app was fully downloaded?

      • Luly

        The new market starts the timer AFTER you've finished downloading the app.

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

        Comparing to Apple in this regard is a bit flawed (a lot of people have said it, but I just happened to reply here, sorry). The problem is, with Android there MUST be a return policy in place to account for apps that may not function on certain devices (just because a developer doesn't block certain devices, doesn't mean the app will work on them). On iOS, the hardware and software versions differ very little and Apple operates on the assumption that users are on the most recent OS version. Because of those assumptions combined with each app passing through a formal test, they can say with relative certainty that apps will at least partially work when a user downloads them.

        I don't have time today (need to start drinking soon), but I'm going to write an article about this tomorrow.

  • Juan

    It's called reading the fucking reviews, oh and you can sort it for your device too!

  • Darkbotic

    Suing for just $4.38 or $4.99 is really stupid...

    • Rob

      yeah... except it is a class action lawsuit which means that if it were to go forward then Google could be liable for a lot of dough. The class as described in the documents is all android phone users who have used the google play store... 4.38 times millions of users doesn't seem so stupid

    • Matt

      It's really stupid, but so is Google's 15 minute refund period. A lot of games can't even be downloaded in that time period, let alone tested (new app size allowance aside). It needs to be at least 30-60 minutes, if not a few hours, or even variable, depending on the app or dev's preference--for example, that learning a new language app could take longer to test than the norm. Something needs to help make that change.

      • Matt

        sorry, this was @Rob.

        • Matt

          damnit i mean @darkbotic. what the hell is wrong with me and these comments tonight. sorry for the spam, all.

      • seriosbrad

        This is my gripe with the system. Game devs have to use their own servers to distribute the files and its slow, often failing, and buggy until now with the 4GB or whatever allowance for app size that Google announced. But still, it takes a while to download 4GB and you won't finish that in 15 minutes.

        • randomchars

          The refund window will only start after the data is downloaded

        • Jaymoon

          ...but an in-game download (like every EA game), downloads the data with the 15 mins ticking away.

  • Mark

    I agree with the lawsuit and the timeframe, but before you sue you might not want to fight over a torrent application

    • Mahname

      My thoughts exactly, I hope they find he torrented illegal stuff and gets his ass handed to him, these guys are morons. Nothing to see here.

    • Finaldeath

      Fyi, torrenting in general is 100% legal. but if you download things that otherwise cost money or are copyrighted and whatnot, that is illegal.

      @seriosbrad From what i understand, the new return system changed so that the time only starts once the download is complete. So 15 minutes could still be plenty of time.

      But this is a prime example of why google needs to close down the market and not let everyone and their grandma release apps on the market, similar to amazon and apple. Apps should be completely tested on listed compatible devices before being allowed on the market.

      So far i haven't had any issues with apps i have paid for, the only apps that give me trouble are free apps.

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

        I've got a few games from Gameloft, over half of them don't work on ANY of my devices (worth noting, I have extremely common devices)...none of which I could have gotten a refund for because the extra content on all of them takes at least 15 minutes to download before running the game for the first time. The only reason I don't much care is because I bought all of them during the 10 cent promo in December.

        The recent change of policy allowing for Google-hosted data and the 15 minute window not starting until the download completes does help...but it's clear as day that there's situations where the 15 minute window is less than ideal. Some apps actually shouldn't have a return window while others require hours or even days.

    • Mark

      Actually, torrents are legal. It's downloading copyrighted work that is illegal. Just because he downloaded a torrent doesn't mean he downloaded an illegal one.

  • Tony

    Whew. Good thing i don't pay for my apps! Gotta love sideload!

    • Adam Sablich

      Yeah. That extra $1.99 on top of your $500 phone and $800 data plan really just is the straw that breaks the camel's back, isn't it?

      • Mark

        @Adam, it adds up over time.

        • jordanjay29

          Sure, I've maybe spent $50 on apps in my 3 years of owning an Android phone. That's really killing my wallet, right?

      • fronk

        this is a really stupid argument that i see a lot when people show any concern about the money they spend on apps. are you really ignorant of why people care about small purchases? should everyone be as careless as you about small amounts of money even though we are all on different budgets with different lifestyles? i guess when someone buys an expensive gadget it makes them ineligible for small purchases that accrue for it afterwards. phone companies love people like you.

        • Bobby Tables

          It is a quite good argument though. A lot of the complaining people spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on smart phone and data plan. Then to say pirating an 1.99 app is ok is just cheap and wrong - and yes, by sideloading the op meant pirating. If you can't or don't want to pay for an app then don't use it. That's 100% ok. But don't give the price as a "good reason" for piracy. Just skip one Starbucks coffee and you can buy three regularly priced apps or one "expensive" one.

          There's a nice The Oatmeal comic about that: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/apps

  • Adam Sablich

    A perfect example - I downloaded a game recently featured by AndroidPolice called "ASH". It was new, so there were very few reviews, all positive first impressions. However, 2-3 hours into the game, I encountered a bug that completely prevented any and all further gameplay. (Among double-digits worth of other bugs that reduced game enjoyment, but didn't completely fubar the game like the final one did.)
    I strongly believe this warrants a refund, but I'm hours outside the ridiculous 15minute window. I'm sure the big G has their reasons for shortening it from 48hrs to 15min, but I definitely feel like a 5-10hour window would be far better.

  • Tim

    California will be the next Taiwan which is off paid apps. HAHA

    • Taipei

      I was just going to say the same thing. It sucks living in Taiwan now.

  • GBGamer

    I just think that this is stupid. If the app doesn't work, you can figure it out within 15 minutes. You can figure it out in 5. Plus, why would you buy a paid for torrent app when you can have aDownloader for free?

  • Kyle ree

    As an Android Dev myself this is ridiculous.... We can provide refunds through Google Checkout months after the purchase. Just contact the Dev and ask for a refund...

    • sriracha

      if every dev on the market was like you we'd have far fewer problems. many devs hide behind the 15m to make a quick buck. some never reply to, or are unreachable by, the average consumer. intentionally.

  • john

    15 minutes is too short of a trial for functionality. A guaranteed gotcha with that time limit. At least an hour would be nice. 15 minute return policy equals piracy site trial method instead for me.

    • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com PixelSlave

      I agree and sometimes, an app can be launched, but then to use it, you will have to download a whole bunch of data that will take more than 15 minutes.

  • Scott

    Since when does any software have a refund period?

    The retailer (Google) should not be able to dictate refund windows at all. If I want to allow 15 minutes, that should be my choice, as a developer. Same goes if I want to allow 7 days.

    • jordanjay29

      Why? That's how it works in the real world. If you sold your app at Best Buy, for example, you wouldn't have a choice. If they said 15 minutes, it would be 15 minutes, and you'll like it. Their argument is you get exposure in their environment that you won't get on your own. So when you let them sell your product, even if you get a cut of the profit, it means they get to dictate terms.

      Refund is up to the retailer, warranty is up to the manufacturer.

    • randomchars

      You can manually refund anytime.

  • john

    Issue isn't sue worthy in my opinion but the 15 min. time limit is not sufficient to test for functionality. Reviews are OK but you are relying on ones own personal opinion and experience level. At least an hour limit would be nice. Google knows the 15 minutes greatly reduce the return numbers. The 15 min. policy drove me to piracy trial method, you have days to test. Ya I know, apps are only a few bucks but.... if you like to try numerous apps monthly the cost ads up quick and especially hurts the pocket when half the the apps are of poor quality.

  • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio Roy Blumenthal

    For me, the biggest issue with ALL of the Google Play stores is the lack of a wishlist.

    I often browse, and sometimes, I buy something because I know I'll forget about it later, and I simply don't get round to opening the app within the fifteen-minute window.

    But for all the 'oh crap, I'll buy this NOW rather than forget about it' purchases I DO make, there must be thirty I DON'T MAKE.

    I reckon that my wishlist purchases would far outnumber my impulse purchases.

    The amount of money *I* spend might be trivial. But for Google, 30% of millions of trivials turns into football stadiums filled with cash.

    They should remove the pressure of making an immediate purchase decision. If purchases are made in a more considered way, there'd probably be less need to return stuff, and also a bigger likelihood of testing the app within the allotted time-window.

    As for the Play Music store... wtf??? On my mobile device, I CANNOT find ANY WAY of finding out what my most recent purchases are. I've got a lifetime of CDs on my digitised music rack. How the hell am I supposed to remember what I've bought in the last while? Sheesh.

  • Guardurgirl

    Wow hope google wins. If its that important get off your butt and make more money. I have a $3500 electric bill every month and people are crying about apps. Worthless google it

    • bobbutt

      $3,500 electric bill?
      What are you growing?

  • josh

    15 isn't long enough. The other day I bought a 47¢ app and after 20mins it kept fc and all this madness.. and plus u can't get a good feel for a game/app in that time.. 7days is great. That's enough time to get a feel ,notice bugs and return of u don't like.

    • David Lee

      7 days? Now that is just outrageous.

      In 7 days, a lot of apps (mainly games) will no longer be needed or have been finished. How many people need a travel app for more than a few days away? Angry Birds can be defeated in a couple of days (with 3 stars all around) and that would result in serious loss of income.

  • shaggyskunk

    15min is lame! It should be at least 24hours!
    Buyer's remorse & all.

  • Silver Fang

    How about a compromise, two hours?

  • Eric G

    I heard that they went to 15 minutes, because a lot of people bought maps for an one day trip and after the trip they asked for a refund.
    One time I bought an app which didn't worked on my phone. 15 minutes for asking support isn't enough. So I asked for a refund. But now I have a problem because a second time dowloading to check if they fixed the problem isn't an option, because you can't get a refund the second time. So this developer lost a customer. And maybe more.
    So 15 minutes isn't good, but longer also. I think the best refund time is the one a developer defines. For maps maybe 15 minutes. But for games maybe 24 hours. But the developer must define the time, not Google.

  • Val

    1 hr should be a fair compromise for both parties.

  • mizio

    Non sarebbe più semplice rilasciare anche una versione demo del software in modo che si possa provare e se piace si procede con l'acquisto?

  • Johannes Homeier

    If you want some great consumer protection, go visit Germany! we have cookies too by the way