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Why are all my free trials resulting in BILLING_ERROR?

  • 2 September 2021
  • 22 replies
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Something strange has been happening over this last week. Each user who starts a free trial has it automatically cancelled due to a billing error. Event data reported by RC contains "cancel_reason": "BILLING_ERROR".

The app currently looks for billing issues (via billingIssueDetectedAt  in RCEntitlementInfo) and guides the user to update their App Store billing. Beyond this, to prevent revenue loss, I’ve switched to a discounted offering without a free trial while I figure out what’s going on.

For context, it’s an iOS app using Purchases v3.11.1 (although this is probably not an SDK issue).

Any ideas as to what’s happening here?

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Best answer by sharif 8 October 2021, 23:58

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22 replies

Userlevel 5
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Are you still seeing this issue? RevenueCat wouldn’t cause billing issues to occur since RevenueCat doesn’t charge the customer but if you’re not seeing any successful purchases it may be a configuration error in App Store Connect. Reach out using the contact form in your account settings if you still need help here.

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I am having this issue too :( Very frustrating

 

I have had 8 users sign up for my free trial since 9/1, only one of them cancelled their trial. The other 7 entered into billing error. I tried subscribing from my own phone and it worked fine. Not sure what to do at this point.

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@Michael Willard

I was using Facebook AAA campaigns optimizing for “Start Trials.” My best guess is that I received a bad cohort of users (people who use empty Visa gift cards and hence more likely to start trials).

In any case, I removed the trial offering and have been optimizing for direct subscriptions instead. I haven’t received BILLING_ERROR for my other apps in which I don’t run any AAA campaigns.

Hope that helps.

Userlevel 5
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An issue in in-app purchases usually effects all users, so if you’re able to subscribe on your own phone then it’s likely not an issue in your configuration. Mobile apps tend to have high churn and billing issue rates. If you just shipped your app recently and these are your first customers, you may not really have a baseline for what churn looks like for your app.

As always, if you feel something looks off, you can reach out to support with some specific examples that we can look into.

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@Michael Willard

I was using Facebook AAA campaigns optimizing for “Start Trials.” My best guess is that I received a bad cohort of users (people who use empty Visa gift cards and hence more likely to start trials).

In any case, I removed the trial offering and have been optimizing for direct subscriptions instead. I haven’t received BILLING_ERROR for my other apps in which I don’t run any AAA campaigns.

Hope that helps.

That makes a lot of sense, I’ll try dropping the trial for a while and see how that goes. Thanks!

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@Michael Willard or @sharif any updates on this?

I’ve had 8 users in a row get cancelled due to billing error. That seems too high to be a coincidence.

I think I’ll try removing my trial for a bit to see if that helps.

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I never really found a root cause, but over time I haven’t seen the issue happening anymore. I would recommend going through your App Store connect account and look out for any warnings on there. I had to add a zip code for my banking account, I’m not sure if that was related. They are constantly updating things and you may need to sign an agreement or something like that. 

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I did have some unsigned agreements. Do you think that might cause this issue?

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Yeah that could definitely be it, unfortunately there’s no way to know for sure until you get a successful transaction through. However my experience was pretty similar, once I fixed my issue with the App Store and waited a bit I started getting purchases coming through. Another thing I did was turn on the billing grace period, so people can be “saved” even if there are some initial problems with the billing. 

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I have this issue too. I have 14 errors that say ‘BILLING ERROR TRIAL’. I’m wondering if those people all had their cards rejected, or that actually wanted to unsubscribe to the app. It’s unclear

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We are seeing this problem at a large scale (US - iOS). Most of our traffic is through Meta optimised for Trial_Start with billing issues on >20% on all Trials that are supposed to convert. 

I somewhat doubt that all of these transactions are expired/invalid or non funded payment options (especially because Apple should not allow any further transactions after a payment method was deemed invalid)

@sharif Can you help us with any benchmarks by Geographies / Price Point / Channel acquired?

Is there any way for us to dig deeper into this metric?

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Hi, 
I am also facing the same issue 50% of subscriptions (for an iOS app) that should have converted ended up in a billing error. Is there any possibility that there is a correlation between billing errors and app updates & release?

Is there any way to know what the most common mistakes an app developper could do to influence negatively the stats of billing errors? 

 

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@suzy-eb726b

Hi,

We dealt with this two years ago and can share some thoughts.

It’s unlikely that billing errors are caused by your app or the RC SDK because payments are entirely handled by Apple. It’s quite common to see billing errors and they can happen for many reasons. For example, a customers with an expired credit card or a debit card with insufficient funds would result in a “BILLING_ERROR” even if they intend on converting.

The way around this is to enable extensive grace periods for your subscriptions from App Store Connect. This means that if a customer’s free trial is over and they encounter a billing issue, they will still get access to the paid content in your app for 3, 16, or 28 days. If, within the grace period, they fix the billing issue, they will be charged and RC will report them as having converted. This works well for some apps, but keep in mind you run the risk of eating the cost of whatever services the customer consumes if they don’t convert during the grace period.

As of iOS 16.4+, the customer is automatically alerted by the system to correct billing issues. For users on earlier iOS versions, you can use the RC SDK to manually notify them. Read more about billing errors and grace periods

 

Hope that helps

Badge +3

I have this issue too. I have 14 errors that say ‘BILLING ERROR TRIAL’. I’m wondering if those people all had their cards rejected, or that actually wanted to unsubscribe to the app. It’s unclear

Did you manage to solve this problem?

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@nobresfit-dd1476, is your app being downloaded mainly on kids devices? It could be parental controls?

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@nobresfit-dd1476, is your app being downloaded mainly on kids devices? It could be parental controls?

I created a fitness app, we gave it a 7-day free trial and after 7 days, it didn't debit the money but showed "billing issue"

So it's not just childish people, it's people who swipe their credit card and pass it with this same problem, what about you?

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It is a parental control app and I have the same issue. What is the percentage of people failing to pay you because of that reason?

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It is a parental control app and I have the same issue. What is the percentage of people failing to pay you because of that reason?

Of 35 people who signed, only 5 were successful.

85% went wrong and what about your case?

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75% of failures 

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75% of failures 

Once they said that this problem could be due to the country and the product ticket

I'm from Brazil and my average product is 149 Reais which is 30 dollars.

and you?

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I’m in the US and the product is worth 59.99 Yearly

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Experiencing very similar problems with Billing error when trying to convert subscriptions after trial period ends. They’re typically from international users. I wasn’t sure at first if it was my app or Revenue Cat SDK but I have had some converts so this seems to be a gift card/temp card/debit card issue with low account balances. 

I have some experience with this at my former employer. Kids or people who can’t afford to pay using Free trails just to use the app for free. We unfortunately had to remove some countries from receiving Free Trials because it got so bad. 

I’ve tested removing free trials but I did see an overall drop in conversions. So it's a lose/lose game. It's really disheartening as an indie dev to get 10 Trials and only 1 of them actually convert after a week. :( 

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