Around two years ago, we published an article saying that despite the claimed existence of a single, 15-minute app refund windows (now 2 hours), Google Play actually had multiple refund windows available to customers that were automated up to around 48 hours after the purchase of an app. Specifically, from a period of 15 minutes (again, now 2 hours) to up to 48 hours after an app or game was purchased, simply submitting a refund request would generally result in a refund being issued automatically, without regard to reason.
At the time, we actually confirmed some of this with Google's PR, though they declined to state that the 48-hour refund windows was fully automated, likely to discourage abuse of the system. But Google Play support documentation was never updated to reflect this. We also came to learn that refunds processed after 48 hours were largely automated, too, but that Google was responsible for eating the cost of those refunds versus the developer. Google also claimed that mechanisms were in place to prevent abuse of the system, suggesting frequent refunders would likely be subject to human assessment of their requests.
Today, Google updated its Play Support documentation to finally acknowledge the second tier of automated refunds.
Within 48 hours of purchase
Submit a refund request online. You’ll usually get a decision within 15 minutes, but it can take up to two business days.
The subtext here is that while most refunds within 48 hours will be processed automatically, there's a chance you'll be subject to an actual, human audit of the request, again likely to discourage abuse. Google also never says these refunds are automated, but a 15-minute response time on an app store where countless purchases are made each day would likely be impossible without a gargantuan support staff.
While we had found the behavior previously after 48 hours was basically the same (automated refund, but Google bears the cost), language on the support page pushes users to developers instead now.
After 48 hours or more
Contact the developer
If 48 hours have passed, the developer is responsible for deciding if you are eligible for a refund. Contact the app developer directly and ask for a refund. You can find an app developer's contact information listed on an app or game's Details page on Google Play. For instructions, go to help with an Android app or game.
Granted, some developers are non-responsive, don't want to give refunds even under valid circumstances, or simply don't care. As such, you can probably still submit a refund request to Google - even if Google doesn't explicitly say you can. The refund request form does not contain any language about timeliness of requests or ask you when an app was purchased, just for the order number and your particular reason for requesting a refund.
But, really: you should contact the developer in such cases, because most of them are likely perfectly nice human beings happy to give you your money back if you have a good reason for them to do so.
Anyway, this was just a quick update and a bit of a PSA to let you know that while the above language is new, it doesn't seem like the underlying policies have changed.
- Google Play Support