A few days ago, Apple has made a significant change to its iTunes stores in European Union countries, introducing a new 14-day no-questions-asked refund period in all these EU markets. That effectively means EU customers buying paid content from the App Store, can ask for their money back in case they end up hating an iOS or iPhone app. However, the new refund policy can apparently be abused because users can both ask for their money back and still keep the app.
The refund flaw, as detailed by 9to5Mac, works like this: An iOS user has to buy an app from the App Store, download the app on the iOS device and/or Mac, and then ask for a refund. Apple will refund the money, the app will be removed from the user’s “Purchased” account history, but the app will still be available on the iPhone, iPad and Mac where it was downloaded on.
Users would not be able download the app again from the App Store, but they’d still be able to use the installed app on their iOS devices, or sync their Macs with an iOS device to reinstall the app. Once access to the app is lost, it can be theoretically purchased again, and then refunded.
It’s not clear at this time what Apple plans to do to fix this refund exploit, and whether it plans to forcefully removed downloaded apps from an iPhone, iPad or Mac following a refund. 9to5Mac speculates that the same refund scheme can be used to obtain other content from iTunes in the EU, including movies, music, books, and everything else Apple sells in the region.
Just because this trick can be used to download many paid apps free of charge in EU countries, that doesn’t mean you should go ahead and do it. After all, developers who come up with all the amazing apps available in the App Store do have to make a living. Not to mention that the App Store is so vast that chances are you’ll be able to find a free app that does some of the things the paid app you want to steal can do. The same goes for any copyrighted content sold through iTunes including movies and music, or through any other digital platform.
Finally, iOS app users looking to score free access to paid apps should keep an eye out on BGR’s regular free paid apps roundups rather than using the refund scheme to steal apps.