The Rudd Government has asked the Australian Competition And Consumer Commission to investigate reports of consumers being shunted around by local app stores when trying to obtain refunds on mobile apps and digital content.
David Bradbury, Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, said this followed consideration of a report by the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council on purchases by Australian consumers on mobile and handheld devices.
“CCAAC has found that there are particular challenges for consumers when attempting to obtain refunds,” said Bradbury.
“Consumers have rights under the Australian Consumer Law, even when the product they are purchasing is a digital download. Consumers are entitled to expect their problem to be resolved where a consumer guarantee has not been met and may be entitled to a refund or replacement.”
In its report, the council expressed concerns about situations where consumers requesting a refund are shunted between app distributors and developers, or in some cases being misled about their rights.
CCAAC also noted the concerns of consumers using so-called “freemium” apps that are free to download but have paid content embedded in them. “These apps have been a particular issue for parents who have allowed their children to use them, only to later uncover unexpected bills,” the report said.
The report has urged app store operators to make basic improvements to improve outcomes for consumers. It says major issue include:
– Critical information not being disclosed when purchases or downloads are made such as the way personal information will be used;
– Disclosure documents that are difficult to navigate;
– Users in some cases being exposed to exploitation by fly-by-night operators;
– Aggressive marketing strategies in apps for children that promote inapp purchases;
– Difficulties when seeking to make a complaint about the nature of the app or to request a refund; and
– Exposure to malicious content.