More than half of users claim to face subscription trap, hidden charges in app purchases: Survey

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Online research firm LocalCircles said on Monday that more than half of surveyed users have experienced subscription traps, hidden charges and other shady patterns in purchasing apps or other software through their mobile application stores.

During the survey, Local Circles saw instances where a user opted for a free app or a one-time service, but was later drawn into a subscription service.

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issued a gazette notification on November 30 banning dark patterns.

The government identified 13 types of dark patterns, including false requirement, basket sneaking, confirmation shaming, forced action, subscription trap, interface interference, bait and switch, drip pricing, disguised advertising, nugging, SaaS (software as a service) billing and rogue malware. The report said that patterns have been identified.

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“67 percent of consumers surveyed who have purchased something through app platforms and SAAS platforms say that what was sold to them as a one-time software or service often turned into a subscription trap,” the survey report said.

The survey, conducted between December 1, 2023 and January 30, 2024, received more than 44,000 responses from users of apps or software subscription services across 331 districts in India, but the number of responses to each question varied, local circles said.

“71 percent of surveyed consumers who have made any purchases through app platforms and SAAS platforms have experienced hidden charges related to purchases that are not presented upfront, but only when they make a payment,” the report said.

According to the survey, 50 percent of surveyed consumers who made any purchase through app platforms and SAAS platforms experienced bait-and-switch dark patterns, where the app or software delivered to them was different from what was promised to them.

According to the report, 25 percent of users who downloaded apps through app platforms were found to have rogue malware that steals private information or installs unauthorized software from their devices.

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