Unhappy with your app? Refunds are hard to come by

If you own a smart phone or tablet, you’ve no doubt explored the enormous world of mobile apps, both free and paid. And if you’re unhappy with a free app, nothing’s easier than uninstalling it. But if you paid for an app that doesn’t live up to its description, or has performance issues, or that you just don’t like, you don’t have a whole lot of recourse.

A precedent was set for this policy back in the days of boxed, shrink-wrapped software: In general, if you opened it, you owned it forever. But most programs offered free trials to potential buyers, so they could make sure it fit their needs. And they still do, even now that we can download software to our computers.

Increasingly mobile developers are offering “freemium” apps, which means they give away a core product at no charge and then generate revenue by selling premium products to some users. So the app could be a “lite” version, and you’d need to upgrade for full features and function; or it could runs ads, and you pay to get rid of them; or it makes money via in-app purchases—or some combination. But many apps are still paid only, meaning there’s no try-before-you-buy. If you’re dropping just a buck or two, that may be no big deal—but some apps can run you $30—or even more.

As when you’re considering any other kind of purchase, research apps as well as you can before you buy. The app markets include user reviews, which should always be taken with a grain of salt—but if there are enough of them, you can often get a sense of how the app works and what its flaws may be. Also check at sites that review apps, of which there are many—just search on the term “app reviews.” Again, break out that grain of salt!

If you do buy an app and regret the purchase, here are the various app stores’ refund policies, such as they are, and some ways you can pursue your app refund.

Android Market:
You can return an app to the Android Market, but bear in mind you have just 15 minutes to get a full refund for it—so try it out quickly. And the terms of the market states that you can return a specific app just once. So if you don’t like it the first time, definitely don’t buy it again.

Here’s what you do, as per the Android Market’s support page online:
1. Launch Android Market on your device.
2. Select Menu > My Apps.
3. Select the app you’d like to return. If the 15 minute refund window has not yet passed, the app is eligible for return and will have two buttons saying Open or Refund
4. Select the Refund option. The Refund button will now say Uninstall. Press Uninstall to remove the app from your device and initiate the refund.
5. After the 15 minute return period has expired, the Refund option will not be available. Selecting the Uninstall button at this point will simply remove the application from your device.
If you let that precious 15 minutes go by without asking for your refund, you then need to go to the app’s developer and make your case directly.

Apple App Store
App Store’s policy is no refunds unless the app proves unavailable to download after you pay for it, or technical problems ensue. Ask for a refund for a good reason, and you might receive it—but Apple takes these requests case by case, and there are no guarantees. Here’s how to go about requesting a refund:
1. Go to Manage Account (at the of the Store screen) and click on Purchase History.
2. Click on Report a problem.
3. Click the arrow next to the purchase with which you want to report a problem.
4. Click the Report a Problem link next to the item with which you wish to report an issue
5. Click the Problem drop-down menu, then select the most appropriate problem description.
6. Write in any additional comments, then submit.

BlackBerry App World
It’s not easy to make your way through the BlackBerry App World’s terms of sale page. The bottom line seems to be that all app sales are considered final, with a few exceptions: for example, the product isn’t available for download when you buy it, or the developer disables it. If all else fails, you could try your carrier.

Windows Phone Marketplace
As usual, this store’s policy is that all sales are final and nonrefundable. But in Microsoft Answers, we saw a way to request refunds:

1. First, go to http://marketplace.windowsphone.com.
2. After signing in, select Purchase History. On the Purchase History page, click the Details button for the application you want refunded.
3. Click the Get Support button and you will see an option for Get Help with my bill. Request a refund for this purchase is the sub-topic.

The Windows Marketplace for Mobile Refund Policy limits refunds to (1) per calendar month. All refund requests must be initiated within 24 hours of the application purchase. After the refund is issued, the application will be removed from your device.

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About contra

Film maker. Video game historian. Will put more in here this section soon!
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