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Australian app inquiry launches

Aussies asked to think of the children ... and how much they spend by mistake

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Australia’s Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) has kicked off its inquiry into apps, releasing the survey and an Issues Paper it will use to gather opinions and frame policy.

The inquiry was announced last month, when Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said that the government wanted to investigate the ways in which apps were sold and marketed to consumers and assess the transparency involved.

"I understand that there are concerns about how some applications such as games are marketed, and that the marketing of these games could mislead consumers, including children, into making further purchases without knowing they will incur real costs,” Bradbury said at the time.

An Issues Paper has been released, and comments on the document are welcome until 31 January 2013.

The crux of the inquiry is whether punters can unknowingly empty their wallets by using an app. Paragraph 14 of the discussion paper states the problem as follows:

"Some stakeholders have raised concerns that the way apps and in-app features are marketed or supplied may be confusing or misleading and could entice consumers (including children) to access in-app features without knowing they will incur costs."

Other issues raised in the paper include the adequacy of the information being disclosed before and after app downloads; consumer experiences when downloading and using content; the level of disclosure on costs - before and after content is downloaded; and adequacy of existing measures to address any consumer concerns.

Legal recourse issues will also be looked at 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 of ‘opt out’ features and the level of parental controls for app stores.

At the time of writing, around 18 hours after the Issues Paper went live with the rather natty interactive version you can find here, not a single comment had been published.

The CCAAC has also published a survey that Vulture South has completed and can report covers the same issues mentioned above.

Consultation on the Issues Paper is open until January 31st. No timeframe for a final report has been offered. &reg

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