Aust govt seeks views on in-app purchases

The Australian government appears to be leaning on the side of better educating consumers about issues with in-app purchases.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian government has used the issues paper for its inquiry into in-app purchases to highlight the existing avenues that consumers have to get refunds and block the purchases if they are unwanted.

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury has tasked the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) to look into whether Australian consumer protection laws are strong enough to deal with problems associated with app purchases and purchases made inside apps.

The inquiry came after a spate of media reports of parents discovering that their children had purchased apps without their permission or racked up large bills with in-app purchases.

The government embarked on the inquiry in November, and is calling for submissions on its issues paper (released yesterday) by the end of January 2013.

The issues paper asks for experiences from consumers on app and in-app purchases, whether consumers bother to read the terms and conditions or disclosures when buying an app, and whether that information is adequate.

But the paper also points out existing laws, such as the Electronic Transactions Act, the Goods Act of Victoria, the National Consumer Credit Protection App, and the national Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which would offer protection for children entering into binding contracts, protection of personal information, and disclosure obligations.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, as well as state and territory fair trading agencies are also on hand to take complaints from consumers about products, the paper noted, and the telecommunications industry ombudsman (TIO) can resolve disputes that involve the mobile carriers.

The paper also highlighted that many of the telcos also have support services to assist customers in how to set controls on their mobile devices to limit app purchases or in-app purchases, as iOS and Android both can limit in-app purchases.

Overall, Bradbury said that the issues paper is seeking to gauge public awareness on their consumer rights and on how people may be misled on the costs associated with app purchases.

"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," he said.

Editorial standards