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ACCC calls for more consumers’ protection

acccThe Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has highlighted the need for guidance in the app industry to protect consumers following a recent sweep of more than 350 app games in the Google Play and Apple App Stores.

The ACCC discovered in its sweep that many ‘free’ games that appeal to children were not accompanied with ‘adequate disclosure’ about costs associated with app-based games.

In addition, the ACCC found that less than 20% of children’s ‘free’ game apps across both platforms included information about how to restrict devices to prevent inadvertent in-app purchases.

The sweep also highlighted the potential for deceptive and misleading conduct in promoting apps, as well as inadequate disclosure of key terms and conditions associated with using such apps.

“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,” ACCC’s deputy chair, Delia Rickard, said.

“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.

“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.”

The ACCC also said that it supports proposed principles for the online and app-based gaming industry that were put forward by the UK Office of Fair Trading in September.

Designed to protect children playing app games, the principles include consumers being told up front about possible in-game costs and advertising, the prominent display of important terms prior to download, and that an account holder must give informed consent for payments.

The ACCC said: “While the ACCC may take enforcement action where contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law are identified, it is urging app developers and platform operators to take steps to address concerns held both in Australia and overseas about app based games.

“There is a need for guidance to help businesses avoid possible contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law.”

The ACCC has also published guide on its website to help parents avoid ‘shock bill’ instances when playing app-based games.

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