Android apps conceal hidden charges

Android users could be getting scammed out of money with falsely advertised prices turning out to be double in some cases when it gets to check out, or your credit card is actually charged.

A Eurodroid reader reported an incident where a purchase of a £2.55 app from the Android Market ended up costing double once VAT, currency conversion and a credit card charge were applied, revealing how the many hidden costs can ramp up the final price of a seemingly cheap app.

The app in question was called Squeeze Commander, with an advertised price of “~£2.55”. However, when Google Checkout was used it translated the price into a Euro cost of €3.56. This included an unadvertised VAT cost of €0.57. At this stage the approximate price in British Pounds was now £3.04, including VAT.

That was not the end of it, however, as the actual price charged to the card of the user was significantly higher. Firstly the real price for the app itself turned out to be £3.19, but a £1.50 debit/credit card charge was also applied, bumping up the total cost to £4.69.

Obviously the £1.50 charge is not the fault of Android or the app developers but the bank or credit card company. It does highlight a very big problem that many users may face when trying to make the numerous small payments necessary for buying several apps from the Market.

The crux of the matter is the very inaccurate estimate and the hidden VAT charge, which clearly needs to be advertised before people hit check out. While the tilde sign (~) was indeed present in the app price, it is somewhat deceptive and evidently far off the end price, which jumped up from £2.55 to £3.19. That’s a pretty huge gap in the estimated price.

The fact that the estimated price also does not include the traditional “ex VAT” text really makes the pricing extremely misleading, so much so that we would have to question if this is done deliberately to hide the real costs and encourage higher Market sales.

Regardless of the intent behind the glaring ommissions and doubling prices, what is clear is that many Android users may be in for a bit of a shock when they get their bank statements or credit card bills, finding those handful of pounds have somehow multiplied behind the scenes.