iTunes New Return Policy In EU: What Does This Mean For App Developers And Music Charts?

Sarah Field - Author
By

Dec. 30 2014, Updated 5:08 p.m. ET

Apple customers in the U.K. and Europe have a new option after purchasing apps, movies or music: a 14-day-return window. The Guardian reports that Apple quietly rolled out the new iTunes return policy to comply with EU regulations. The regulations mandate that an “off premises” contract can be rescinded within two weeks. Customers do not have to give a reason for the return.

The returns do not include iTunes Gifts, which, once redeemed, cannot be refunded.

Outside the EU, the previous iTunes returns policy remains in effect. Apple has the right to deny a refund for any content that has been downloaded. Even refunds for content that does not download properly has, and continues to be, handled by the company on a case-by-case basis. It is not automatically resolved in favor of the consumer.

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Consumers in Europe or the U.K. who want an iTunes refund within the 14-day-period will use the “Report a Problem” feature or another form to request a refund. Once the cancellation is complete, the downloaded item is removed from the customer’s iTunes library, according to the Mirror.

Not everyone is happy about the change. Developers are concerned there will be a high number of apps returned, particularly if they have a short-term function. The Guardian quotes developer Adriana Lee, who claims the new iTunes returns policy will turn digital sales into a free rental business.

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“[Y]ou can keep your visiting brother out of your hair with ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,’ and then ask for the $6.99 back after he leaves in a week. No questions asked. It would be the equivalent of buying a DVD, watching the movie, and then returning it — something most retail stores don’t allow.”

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The Guardian also points out Apple’s new iTunes return policy might go beyond what EU law actually requires. The regulations state that once the digital content has been used — in other words, if a song has been played, a movie viewed, or an app accessed — the company does not have to issue a refund, even if it is within the 14-day-period. The publication reports that iTunes is giving refunds for any reason within the 14 days, however, regardless of whether or not it has been consumed.

Music-industry watchers also proposed the iTunes return policy might be used to manipulate music charts. Fans of an artist could buy multiple copies of a new release to increase chart position, and then simply return the music. NME points out, however, that checks are in place to prevent this kind of activity. Although the Official Charts Company would not comment to NME, the publication noted that multiple-purchased albums from retail and digital outlets are excluded from chart tabulations.

[Image via Deviant Art]

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