Google has removed 14 apps from its Google Play store, as it charges high-value monthly subscriptions for apps with very basic functionality, in violation of in-app purchase policies.
The removal came after security firm Sophos discovered a bunch of Android apps in the Google Store, whose sole purpose seems to be to charge users heavily for apps that offer very simple functionality available on low-cost or free apps.
Application developers take advantage of a business model available in the Google Play store ecosystem, where users can download and use applications for free for a short trial period.
If the user does not uninstall these applications when the trial expires and informs the developer that they do not wish to continue using the application, the application developer charges the user.
Using a normal app, such as calculators; and barcode scanners, can cost just a few dollars, but newly discovered publishers or app developers charge users hundreds of dollars.
These applications do not appear to be malicious or contain malicious code, and some of these applications may have useful functionality.
Being located in a gray area, so that they are not overt malware and not an unwanted application (PUA), the protection company has called it the term Fleeceware, because it features additional user fees for functions available in free applications.
These apps have accumulated over 20 million installs, and developers are using the free trial period to charge customers between $ 100 and $ 240 at the end of the short trial period.
This trial period usually aims to encourage users to try out the features of an app without paying, and according to the policies, Google allows developers to set a free trial period of at least three days, but requires users to cancel the trial subscription and uninstall the app.
While some developers do not strictly enforce these laws and interpret the uninstallation of the application as a cancellation of the trial period, others adhere to this policy to charge users if the trial subscription is not canceled despite the uninstallation of the application.
The security company explained that it later found 10 other applications that practice similar behavior, most of which are still available in the Google Play Store, Sophos said: These applications took advantage of the fact that most people avoid reading the terms, and worse, that these applications are not unique.