For some time, it has been Google’s policy to provide automated Play Store refunds up to 15 minutes after an app has been purchased. Claiming a refund after this period has also been possible, although the process involved has not been heavily publicised.
By going to the Play Store orders page on the web and opting to report a problem with a purchase, it is possible to request a refund after the initial 15 minute period has expired.
When asking for a refund in this way, you are warned that the request will only be granted in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Previously, refund requests via the Play Store orders page would have been processed manually by developers. But in most cases these are now being granted instantly by Google directly.
If this type of refund request is granted up to 48 hours after purchase, then the developer will lose the say. After this 48 hour period, though, Google themselves will bear the cost of the refund.
If a refund request is granted within the first 48 hours, the user will lose access to the app (as is the case with refunds that are processed within the first 15 minutes, albeit the method via which this takes place is slightly different). However, if a refund is authorised after 48 hours, the app will remain available to the user indefinitely.
The new system could potentially be abused, although Google have put measures in place to try and prevent this. As with any fraud prevention system, the triggers have not been released publicly, although it seems likely that those who make large volumes of refund requests will be targeted.
Whilst it may seem surprising that Google is prepared to bear the cost of some refunds, the reality is that the alternative – providing support – is expensive. Covering the cost of refunds is probably the most efficient option that is currently available.
It is likely that some developers will be unhappy at losing an element of control over their sales process, particularly with the new 48 hour policy. There is one advantage of the new system for developers, though, as it should make sales admin more straightforward.