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Taipei demands refunds on app sales


Money-back guarantee – a promise by a retailer to give you back your money if you are not satisfied with something that you bought – is taken for granted with tangible products and re-packaged intangibles such as the MobileMe box. When it comes to apps, it just seems weird to ask for a refund in the 99-cent economy, many people feel. The Taipei City Government begs to differ, arguing the same rules should apply to digital goods. They are ordering Apple and Google to introduce a seven-day money-back guarantee for sales of iOS and Android apps, Taipei Times reports.

An official said the lack of a return and refund mechanism violated the Consumer Protection Act. In an example of the problem the city government is trying to prevent, Yeh cited a case of software bought on Apple Store on Thursday that did not work, but left the buyer without recourse.

In other words, Taipei imagines a world where you could buy an app and “return” it for a full refund within two weeks if you’re not fully satisfied. When the App Store debuted as this phenomenal virtual bazaar to buy iPhone apps, nobody ever expected someone some day could demand the same consumer protection for digital deliveries. But Taipei’s demands have their merits. After all, the city officials cut a similar refunding deal with online auction web sites. If online sites are OK with it, so should app stores be, right?

The city officials gave Apple and Google a two-week deadline to make necessary back-end changes. If they ignore the request, Yeh Ching-yuan, head of the city government’s Law and Regulation Commission threatened, fines of up to $1.5 million New Taiwan dollars could be issued, which amounts to about $52,300 US dollars. We reckon Apple and Google will just swallow the fines and continue with business as usual. The city officials should have examined the fine print of iTunes Terms and Conditions with greater scrutiny, though, because “all sales and rentals of products are final” after you hit that Buy button.

And check out this paragraph:

Prices for products offered via the Services may change at any time, and the Services do not provide price protection or refunds in the event of a price reduction or promotional offering. If a product becomes unavailable following a transaction but prior to download, your sole remedy is a refund. If technical problems prevent or unreasonably delay delivery of your product, your exclusive and sole remedy is either replacement or refund of the price paid, as determined by Apple.

Yeh summed it up best, proposing that “if flawed software apps were thought to threaten the financial interests of potential buyers, online suppliers of those programs would be ordered to stop sales and allow customers to return them or get refunds, in accordance with Article 36 of the Consumers Protection Act.” Sounds fair to us.Whadda ya think? Is this just Utopian dreaming?

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