Google recently announced that it was implementing a new feature aimed at improving transparency and the customer experience to its users in regards to mobile billing. The tech giant is bringing in the new feature, which will see any web pages that are detected as offering a subscription service that uses the customers mobile phone as the billing method, to try and combat the poor quality of many of these web pages.
According to Google’s data, millions of their customers every month are encountering pages that request your mobile number to allow you access to whatever content you were trying to view. It is very possible that by providing your number and then clicking ‘Next’ you are granting the website permission to apply charges to your mobile phone bill, even if they haven’t laid it out clearly for you at this point. Google is using this new feature to Google Chrome as a clear message on its stance - provide customers with all of the information before you bill them, or we will warn them for you.
This new feature of Chrome will see a warning message pop up that appears very similar to the ‘potentially unsafe web page’ or ‘insecure connection’ warnings. The message informs the user that the page they are trying to access has the potential to charge them money in one way or another and asks if the user wishes to proceed. This, Google says, is to ensure billing information, costs and other fees are clearly laid out for customers and if they are, the message will not appear.
Whilst it is not completely clear what the exact details are which will trigger the warning, Google is clearly trying to force website owners to make things clearer for their customers. If you run a subscription service on your website, the new feature is scheduled to roll out with Chrome 71 in December 2018, so from that point you should definitely check and see if your site is generating the message.
At present, Google are stating that having a website which generates this warning message will have no bearing on how said website ranks with their search engine, but as with many features implemented in the past, it feels as though it is only a matter of time. After all, the whole point of Google’s search rankings is to promote the websites that are the best, the most optimised, most relevant and SEO literate in its databases; as such why would an extra check such as this be ignored in the long run? Although not their stance at present, it is probably a safe assertion to make that somewhere in the not so distant future, providing lackluster billing information will cause your Google ranking to plummet. If this turns out not to be the case, then surely the question that we should be asking is, how can the rankings be for the benefit of search users, if a website that is deliberately providing unclear information is not being penalised for doing so? As usual, Google will make its long term plans clear as they develop and roll out, but this feature appears to be a good thing that brings clarity and a degree of protection to Chrome users. Something that we should all be in favour of.