The Federal Government is encouraging the public to “name and shame” the vendors of dodgy apps as part of an inquiry by the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council.
The CCAAC will conduct an inquiry into the experiences of Australian consumers with downloading apps, including free and paid apps, and making in-app purchases.
The inquiry comes after ABC-TV program Lateline reported on a nine-year-old girl who unknowingly charged about $600 of virtual goods to her parents’ iTunes account, mostly from a free app.
The report sparked concerns from independent senator Nick Xenophon, who has called for tougher regulations that prevent children from racking up bills using real money in online games.
As part of its inquiry, the CCAAC will look at the adequacy of the information being disclosed to consumers about the costs associated when downloading and using apps.
Elise Davidson, from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, told The Australian Financial Review some apps allow in-app purchases without a password requirement for up to 15 minutes.
Federal Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury is urging the public to “name and shame” app vendors who sell apps that don’t work, are inappropriate or contain hidden charges.
The apps can cover everything from entertainment to shopping to banking.
“We are inviting consumers who use apps and other digital content on their mobile devices to come forward and tell us about their experiences,” Bradbury said in a statement.
“This is an opportunity to look at some of the consumer issues that are emerging from this rapidly changing environment.”
“We have strong consumer laws in Australia that protect the rights of consumers and place clear obligations on businesses.”
“This inquiry is an opportunity to look at the adequacy of existing measures to address any consumer concern, including the… efforts of industry to improve the way they do business.”
In addition to the adequacy of information disclosed to consumers, CCAAC will examine:
- The characteristics, features and trends of app markets in Australia.
- Consumer experiences when downloading and using such content, including when used by children.
- Adequacy of existing measures to address any consumer concern, including the legal protections available to consumers, the adequacy of default settings to ensure consumers are making an active decision before incurring additional charges, the availability and ease of use of “opt out” features, the adequacy of existing parental controls for app stores and how these controls are promoted to consumers.
- Actions that can be taken by consumers, industry and governments to improve consumer experiences when making in-app purchases, including global approaches.