ACCC wants new principles for app producers

Review of Android and iOS apps has led to concerns from consumer watchdog

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claims there is a need for more stringent guidelines in the mobile gaming industry, following a review of the Google Play and Apple App Stores where over 340 apps were analysed.

The ACCC’s concern comes from a discovery that many of the games in the survey did not provide proper information to consumers before download about the nature of the games and the possibility of in-app purchases. Concerns were also raised about the lack of information on how to restrict devices from such purchases.

While the consumer watchdog has not taken any action as yet in regards to specific developers, it has expressed concerns over the vulnerability of consumers in a growing market.

“Once you’re playing, many games make it clear that you can get ahead or avoid getting bogged down if you shell out for in-app purchases. Children exposed to this won’t always connect a tap on the screen in the heat of the action with spending their parents’ money in the real world,” ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard, said.

The ACCC has said that it supports the objectives of the principles proposed by the United Kingdom Office of Fair Trading (UK OFT) for the mobile gaming industry on 26 September 2013. The principles state that: Consumers should be told upfront about any possible in-game costs or advertising, important terms should be prominently disclosed prior to download and an account holder, such as a parent, needs to have given informed consent to payments – otherwise they are not authorised.

The ACCC continues to investigate concerns about the misleading conduct of a number of app developers. The ACCC may take action in relation to breaches of Australian Consumer Law however, the transcendent nature of the technology has spurned the ACCC to encourage app developers and platform operators to address concerns held not just in Australia but also overseas.

The ACCC website offers tips for parents aimed at guiding unsure consumers through the sometimes tricky area of avoiding ‘bill shock’ when making in-app purchases.

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