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Apple blamed for loophole in mobile app refund policy

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<span>People line up to buy iPhone 7s at an SK Telecom sales outlet in central Seoul in this Oct. 21 file photo. <br />/ Courtesy of SK Telecom</span><br /><br />
People line up to buy iPhone 7s at an SK Telecom sales outlet in central Seoul in this Oct. 21 file photo.
/ Courtesy of SK Telecom

By Yoon Sung-won

Apple is drawing criticism for providing ammunition to abusers who benefit from loopholes in their closed mobile application store refund policies.

According to industry sources, Apple holds full control in paying refunds on paid for mobile content such as games. It determines whether to give refunds to consumers.

But the content developer cannot take part in the process under Apple's refund policy. Apple does not even provide information about the users who have requested and received the refund, claiming it is to protect consumer rights. For this reason, the developers have no other choice but to manually track down the users and check if they continue to use the charged content they have already received refunds for.

On the backdrop of this, some users have abused the loophole in Apple's refund policy to purchase charged content multiple times, request refunds and continue to consume the content without actually paying for it. In particular, some of the abusers have organized profitable businesses to operate the refund process on others' behalf.

Mobile game companies here have been the first to be damaged and this has also caused secondary problems for those who have paid fair prices for the same content.

Apple has not released a statement about the issue. In the process, mobile game companies here are taking their own measures to counteract Apple.

A Korean mobile game development studio Flint, which has provided the mobile role-playing game "Dragon Blaze" through its distribution partner Gamevil, has been struggling to tackle the abuse. The development company said it started a full analysis of user data since Nov. 23.

"By analyzing all payment data and logs, we have tracked down about 300 users who are suspected of abusing Appstore's refund policy," Flint CEO Kim Young-mo said in a posting on the official online community "Dragon Blaze," Nov. 28.

"We pledge to root out the abusers by requesting the judicial authorities for an investigation."

Next Floor, which is distributing another mobile game "Destiny Child" in Korea, also complained about the difficulties in dealing with abusers without Apple's cooperation.

"We are regulating those who abuse the payment process and damage other users under our management policy," the company said. "Unlike other application stores, Apple does not provide refund information to the game companies and we are having difficulties in promptly counteracting the problem."

Nexon and Longtu Korea, which are providing the mobile games "Heroes of Incredible Tales" and "Sword and Magic," respectively, have also started to block the accounts of abusers.

"The company has asked Apple for the lists of users who requested refunds several times already," a source from a mobile game company said. "But Apple did not respond. I cannot understand Apple's policy in that it does not provide the list of people who abuse the system even when it is already causing problems in the market."

In its refund policy, Google, which is operating the largest mobile application store business in Korea, states that users can receive refunds on charged mobile content only once if they request it within two hours after payment.


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