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Basic apps are using Play Store loophole to over-charge users

Would you pay over $100 for a calculator app? Some of these basic apps are tricking users into doing so.

Published onSeptember 26, 2019

Google has removed so-called fleeceware from the Google Play Store.

You don’t have to pay to get basic apps such as calculators and QR code scanners on the Play Store, but Google has pulled some basic apps for exploiting its trial period system.

Sophos discovered over a dozen apps that provide very rudimentary functionality (h/t: ZDNet), such as QR code scanning, photo editing, and GIF creation. But the security firm found that their sole purpose was actually to over-charge users.

According to the security firm, these so-called fleeceware apps take advantage of the Play Store’s trial period functionality in order to charge unsuspecting users. Sophos notes that once the app’s trial period ends, users are often charged an exorbitant subscription fee, ranging from €105 to €220 ($115 to $241).

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The company says these developers routinely charge users, even if you’ve uninstalled the app before the end of the trial period.

Sophos says these apps don’t appear to contain malicious code, but they passed a list of 15 fleeceware apps to Google anyway. All but one of these apps were then removed from the Play Store.

“With millions of installations, in some cases, if even a small percentage of users forgets to cancel their subscription before the trial period lapses, app creators can make significant money,” the company noted in a blog post.

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