In brief: Chrome’s upcoming December update is looking better and better. After its launch, the browser will warn users if they visit a website that is known to use shady or misleading billing practices.
Specifically, Google is taking aim at sites that use your cell number to hit you with additional fees on your monthly phone bill.
Google’s fictional example of a website using such tactics is as follows:
Picture this: Andrea is browsing the web on a mobile connection to access a gaming page and they’re presented with a page that asks them for their mobile phone details.
They fill in the blanks with their mobile number and press Continue, and get access to the content.
The next month, the phone bill arrives and they see a charge they were not expecting. Was the subscription to the online gaming service really that expensive? Did they really agree to pay that specific price for the service? How much did they agree to be charged to access the content?
Similar to Chrome 71‘s abusive ad policy, the penalties for sites who attempt to hide additional costs could be pretty severe. Google will display a giant warning message to users who attempt to visit the website, informing them that the page “may try to charge [them]” money, in the form of one-time or recurring payments that they might not be aware of.
While more savvy users will likely ignore a warning message if they know a site is otherwise trustworthy, less informed users might leave right away, which could be pretty punishing for webmasters. As such, this change will likely act as a significant incentive for site owners to improve their business practices.
So, what does Google consider misleading billing practices in the first place? The examples the company has provided include obscuring subscription information, hiding billing info in grey characters over a grey background, or taking advantage of confusing or misleading fee structures.
Only time will tell how big of an impact this new Chrome update will have on the internet at large, but it’s nice to see Google take user security more seriously.