The Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) will take a look into whether Australian consumers are getting a fair go when it comes to the apps they download to their smartphones and tablets.
Announcing the new inquiry today, Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury invited consumers to "name and shame" mobile app developers that aren't up to par with Australia's consumer-protection levels, or that might mislead users into paying for features that they didn't know they were purchasing.
"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 legal protections available to consumers, and the efforts of industry to improve the way they do business with their customers," he said in a statement.
Bradbury said that consumers are raising concerns over the change in how transactions are occurring on mobile devices, "particularly where purchases can be made without much difficulty using stored credit card data."
According to Bradbury, "Apps are also increasingly relying on 'in-app' purchases and subscriptions, particularly common in games that may be played by children.
"Some of these apps are causing consumers great frustration and cost, and this inquiry will help to name and shame some of the worst offenders."
The CCAAC has released the terms of reference into the inquiry, highlighting what will be examined. In particular, it will cover consumer experiences when downloading and using apps, including those used by children; whether costs associated with downloading and using apps are adequately disclosed; whether Australians have the ability to use legal protections normally available to them as a consumer; and what actions consumers can take to improve the experience of in-app purchases.
The CCAAC expects to release an issues paper shortly, and will invite the public to make submissions into the inquiry. Submissions will be accepted until January 31, 2013.