- Google next month will update its Chrome browser with a feature that warns users about possible mobile subscription scams, according to a company blog post. The latest version of Chrome, whose mobile version has about 57% market share worldwide, aims to protect web users from unclear mobile subscriptions that rely on “carrier billing” to charge customers for services like game downloads.
- Websites will need to provide adequate details on their billing pages that help users know what fees to expect. Fee structures need to be easily understandable, and websites need to clearly show what kinds of charges they’ll apply before consumers accept the terms of carrier billing.
- Google will display warnings about insufficient billing information on Chrome mobile, Chrome desktop and Android’s WebView platforms. The search giant will try to reach webmasters of sites that aren’t verified on its Search Console and will answer questions on its support forum, which is available in 15 languages, according to its blog post.
Google’s update to Chrome aims to prevent fraud and unscrupulous business practices, but legitimate brands need to ensure their websites provide adequate disclosures about billing and seek the informed consent of customers. Otherwise, they risk getting blocked by Google, which translates to a major loss of web traffic, business and costly damage to their brand.
With this move, Google is further distancing itself as a possible accessory to fraud. The company five years ago settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after allegations of unfairly billing consumers millions of dollars for in-app charges incurred by children without parental consent. When Google introduced in-app charges to Google Play in 2011, it started billing customers without password requirements or other methods to obtain account holder authorization, the FTC said. Google also failed to tell parents that entering the password would then open a 30-minute window during which children could make unlimited charges without authorization, according to the FTC.
The Chrome update comes as mobile devices are particularly susceptible to fraudulent billing practices, as more consumers use smartphones and tablets for transactions. Data security firm RSA found that 60% of transactions confirmed as fraud originated from a mobile device, according to its 2017 Global Fraud and Cybercrime Forecast. Online money transfer and bill pay services made up about 20% of e-commerce fraud transactions, followed by the hospitality and airline, electronics, jewelry and fashion, entertainment and gaming industries, RSA reported.