If you’re using the Chrome browser, Google will begin to warn you if a website is trying to bill you without being upfront about the terms. The feature will begin to arrive in December with the launch of Chrome 71, with Google flagging you when a website has unclear mobile billing practices.
This means that if you’re shopping on a reputable retailer, like Amazon.com or your favorite department store, from your Chrome browser on your smartphone or tablet, you likely won’t get any annoying flags. However, if you’re visiting a site that tries to bill your phone number for a subscription disguised as a one-off fee, Google will alert you in its efforts to help make ecommerce clearer and safer for all consumers.
Google claims that the new feature is designed to deter websites merely asking for phone numbers from web visitors to their page, and later tacking on a charge — without the user’s knowledge or consent — to the mobile carrier associated with the phone number in a practice known as carrier billing. While the feature is convenient — you don’t need to enter your name, credit card information and expiration date, and your billing address — the practice has led to abuses, and that’s what Google is trying to stop with Chrome 71.
“Every month, millions of Chrome users encounter pages with insufficient mobile subscription information,” Google wrote in a blog post detailing some of the changes coming with Chrome 71. “Surprising charges that come from unclear communication are a poor user experience.” After the warning pops up to make internet surfers aware of potential charges, users can either choose to proceed or go back.
Google is evaluating several criteria on websites to ensure that billing will be clear for Chrome users. Google said that the billing information must be obvious, cost and fee structures must be spelled out, and the information must be easy to read. If Chrome detects that a website violates these standards, then Chrome 71 will display a warning flag. The warning will appear on both mobile and desktop versions of Chrome and in Android’s WebView. Google will also notify the website’s webmaster to make the changes necessary to clarify billing for future visitors.
Google is also making Chrome 71 safer by blocking abusive ads. These changes follow Google’s recent Chrome redesign with the launch of Chrome 69 and the additional tweaks Google introduced with Chrome 70.
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