Starting in Chrome 71, Google will begin warning users through Chrome mobile, Chrome desktop, and Android WebView when a site they are viewing is not clearly marked as a billing page but may cost them money via a mobile subscription, the company has announced. More specifically, the browser will be searching for pages that don't provide sufficient information about a subscription service during the sign-up process. A page might display an entry box for users to input their mobile phone number to sign up for a service but hide pertinent information such as costs through the use of unreadable text and background colors. In another example, the site might simply not make clear that clicking through the "continue" button will finalize signup and incur charges on the user's phone bill. If a page doesn't meet Google's mobile billing charges best practices, it will be flagged and visitors to the page will see a warning that's similar to the warning Chrome displays for unsafe websites. That will inform them that the page may try to charge them and offer the opportunity to navigate away or proceed.
Background: Chrome 71 is also bringing a number of other changes that should bolster security when it launches, which is currently expected to happen on December 4 for desktop users and December 11 for everybody else. One of the biggest, among those, is a change that will actively filter out advertisements from sites that frequently display abusive ads. Summarily, those will be ads that are deliberately misleading across several categories, including those that feature misleading 'close' or 'play' icons or buttons that don't do what they appear to do. For example, ads that display play buttons that instantiate downloads or close buttons that redirect users to another website would qualify as abusive. Webmasters and site owners will be able to reduce the impact of that by fixing the ads themselves within a 30 day period and Google will be flagging those in the Google Search Console to ensure that adequate time is given to address the problem.
Similarly, when pages are identified by Chrome as containing unclear subscription details, site owners and webmasters will be notified through Search Console and will be able to make changes to clarify things to prevent the warning from appearing. For websites that don't have access to the console, the company plans to reach out directly wherever possible, so that those pages that aren't deliberately misleading have an opportunity to fix the problem. Once changes are in place and an appeal sent, Google will review the site again to remove the warning page if the changes are sufficient to meet best practices.
Impact: Of course, as is always the case for security-related changes, there's no guarantee that every abuse ad or every abusive subscription sign-up will be caught by the browser. Moreover, the search giant indicates that the change won't actually affect a site's search ranking at all. So it won't lessen the chances a user will land on a page that doesn't clearly explain the billing or that billing will occur in the first place. However, the new warning page should, at a minimum, help ensure that fewer Chrome users are affected negatively through unexpected and unwanted charges on their mobile bill.