Google Play Store, Android and the Problem of “Fleeceware” Apps That Hide Expensive Subscriptions

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A problem still well presents on the Google Play Store is that of fleece are apps, which hide expensive subscriptions after a short free trial period on Android.

The Google Play Store has long been fighting a fair battle against apps that are harmful to users in various aspects, in particular against those that steal personal data or that cover scams of various types, but apparently it is particularly difficult to solve the problem of those apps that they hide expensive subscriptions after a first free use.

These are the so-called fleece are apps, or applications that offer even very simple services and do so through subscriptions that can still be very expensive. The main problem with these apps is that they often hide real scams: they come as free apps, which can be used freely for a period of time.

After the trial period for a free trial, however, they trigger the subscription automatically, so it can happen that the user forgets to deactivate them and therefore finds himself with the subscription applied, with expenses even of hundreds of dollars or euros.

Security company Sophos recently investigated this phenomenon and brought it to Google’s attention. For example, the case of the “Search by Image” app was analyzed, which in fact does nothing but offer the same functionality as Google Lens (free app pre-installed on Android devices) starting with a free trial for three days and then do take a subscription of 215 euros per year.

In the same way, “Palm Secret” promises to read the future by analyzing the palm of your hand: in this case, too it starts with a short free trial and then requires over 100 dollars a year for an annual subscription, however it does not even work, given that in many claims that it crashes with every use.

Beyond the actual operation or not of these apps, it is clear how they are real scams, scams that circumvent security systems relying on the fact that people are encouraged to download them as free and then caged them with the automatic subscription.

The problem is that many of these apps don’t violate the rules, actually offering exactly what they say they offer. Maybe it is extremely services simple or of doubtful utility, but if they carry out what is promised by the description and if the user accepts the conditions by downloading the free trial version, it is difficult then to retaliate against the manufacturers.

Google could act in such a way as to insert additional warning messages, perhaps pointing out that even by uninstalling an app it is sometimes necessary to withdraw from the subscription because it may have already been subscribed.