Feeds

Australia opens inquiry into smartphone apps

Concerns about quality and in-app purchases to be tested

The essential guide to IT transformation

Australia's nanny state will take up residence in its citizens' smartphones, after the nation's government decided to launch “an inquiry into the experiences of Australian consumers with downloading apps, including free and paid apps, and making in-app purchases, on mobile phone and handheld devices.”

Assistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation David Bradbury has initiated the inquiry through Australia's Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council, and says it is needed because “In a very short period of time, new mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have changed the way consumers engage in commerce … [but] some consumers have raised concerns about aspects of mobile commerce, particularly where purchases can be made without much difficulty using stored credit card data.“

In-app purchases are singled out for special attention, as some “ … are causing consumers great frustration and cost, and this inquiry will help to name and shame some of the worst offenders.”

Bradbury expects the inquiry will “... look at the adequacy of existing measures to address any consumer concern, including the legal protections available to consumers and the efforts of industry to improve the way they do business with their customers.”

Consumers and the mobile commerce industry alike have been invited to share their thoughts with the inquiry, which will shortly open a public consultation period.

Yourr correspondent knows one parent whose child ran up a four-figure in-app purchase bill in ignorance of the fact that he was spending real money, and not a numinous in-game currency, the parent in question had entered his password without explaining in-app purchases to their child. Furtive calls to Apple saw the charges cancelled.

Yet The Reg knows of no group advocating for such an inquiry, so perhaps it is worth noting that stories about the inquiry appeared in News Limited tabloids on the stroke of midnight of November 5th, while the time stamp in the ministerial press release says it was created on the 5th. That's no smoking gun in terms of an indication the inquiry is spin-driven, but given Apple's reluctance to play ball with Australia's inquiry into local pricing for kit and content, the government will almost certainly find itself with another reason to curse Cupertino.

The inquiry's terms of reference are:

  • 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 the information being disclosed to consumers about the costs associated when downloading and using this content before and after it is downloaded;
  • 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, and any other industry initiatives; and
  • actions that can be taken by consumers, industry and governments to help improve consumer experiences when making in-app purchases, including international approaches.

®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.