More and more people are discovering that so-called
'free' games downloaded to mobile devices can cost a small
fortune. Parents are puzzled when charged hundreds and even
thousands of dollars from a 'free' game only to discover
their child had 'bought' awards in a game in real world
money not virtual currency.
Good news. Help is on the way. In the US Apple has had to refund
$37 million to consumers to settle a lawsuit brought by the Federal
Trade Commission for making it too easy for kids to rack up massive
charges on a mobile applications (app) without parental permission.
Apple made $10 billion last year from its app store. Apple agreed
to modify its practices.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning
app providers it will strictly enforce existing consumer laws which
protect people from ripoffs and scams. It will also bring in new
guidelines to cover the growing app industry.
The ACCC looked at 340 game apps in Google Play and Apple app
stores and found less than 25 per cent of the child-friendly games
had properly revealed that real world money could be used to
advance in the virtual games. In some games, children only had to
tap on an image in the game to make the purchase, not realising mum
or dad would be slugged real money. Many apps only disclosed terms
and conditions once the games were downloaded.
The ACCC urges app operators to follow new principles for apps,
inform consumers upfront about any costs or advertising
prominently disclose important information prior to
ensure account holders, such as parents, have given informed
consent to payments, otherwise they are deemed unauthorised.
The ACCC advises those who discover unexpected app bills
suddenly appearing on their credit cards, mobile phone bills or
Google/Apple accounts to contact the app store to request a refund,
the bank to challenge unauthorised charges on credit cards or the
mobile phone company to challenge a charge on the bill.
If there is no luck there, contact the Telecommunications
Industry Ombudsman to register a complaint. Be armed with details
of dates of calls made, person you spoke to and responses. The TIO
is there to help resolve disputes.
Independent legal advice could be helpful if you think you have
been deceived or ripped off by the app operator and they have
broken consumer laws.
Most important of all - be aware of the risks in 'free'
app games and keep an eye on what your kids do with them. Safeguard
passwords and consider using debit cards online rather than credit
cards to limit potential payouts.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The Sportscraft refunds and returns policy limitations went beyond consumer's rights under the Australian Consumer Law.
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