Australian Regulator Call for Clearer Guidance About In-App Purchases

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There is a need for guidance to the app industry to protect consumers from unauthorised in app purchases according to an Australian consumer rights regulator.

The ACCC says that it found that many 'free' games that appeal to children do not come with adequate disclosures about costs associated with app-based games. Fewer than 25 percent of children's 'free' game apps on one platform disclosed that in-app purchases could be made.

"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 also found that less than 20 percent of children's 'free' game apps across both Android and iOS included information about how to restrict devices to prevent inadvertent in-app purchases.

"While there are some optional tools available to parents to restrict purchases, the ACCC and consumer regulators across the globe are looking together at whether people really know what to expect before the game is downloaded," Ms Rickard said.

Testing of 340 apps highlighted the potential for misleading and deceptive conduct in the promotion of apps as well as inadequate disclosure of key terms and conditions associated with using the apps.

Many of the games reviewed by the ACCC did not provide access to the terms and conditions prior to downloading and playing the game. Parents or children purchasing and using these games may not be aware of important information about games including the suitability of content; third party collection of personal information; and social sharing through app games.

The ACCC said that it supports the objectives of proposed principles for the online and app-based game industry. The draft principles, released by the UK's Office of Fair Trading in September, are designed to protect children playing app-based games on smartphones and tablets.

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Tags: mobile apps  accc  Australia 

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