19 July 2013

App inquiry report released

Difficulty obtaining refunds for apps and digital content is one of the major issues to emerge out of the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) inquiry, Purchases by Australian consumers on mobile and handheld devices.

Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, David Bradbury, today released CCAAC's final report.

"CCAAC has found that there are particular challenges for consumers when attempting to obtain refunds," said Mr 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, CCAAC expressed concerns about situations where consumers requesting a refund are shunted between app distributors and app developers, or in some cases being misled about their rights.

"I have referred the CCAAC report's findings to the independent consumer watchdog, the ACCC, and have asked them to look at any education or enforcement activities that may be required."

CCAAC also noted the concerns of consumers using '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.

"Consumers should make sure they are familiar with the account settings and content restrictions that are offered by many app stores and devices that can stop unwanted transactions from occurring within these apps."

The report finds that there are some basic improvements that should be made by app stores to improve outcomes for consumers.

CCAAC has noted its concerns about refund policies with industry stakeholders and has encouraged Commonwealth, state and territory consumer agencies to undertake compliance and enforcement activities as appropriate.

CCAAC also encouraged industry stakeholders to work with consumer agencies to develop industry best practices to improve consumer experiences. CCAAC encouraged consumer agencies to monitor consumer experiences and to review the issues in two years' time.

The inquiry report is available on the CCAAC website.