Mobile app stores and developers could soon come under more scrutiny from consumer protection authorities.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said it would move to work with state consumer protection authorities and IT industry bodies in an effort to stamp out unscrupulous practices by smartphone and tablet app developers.
ACCAN chief executive Teresa Corbin said the move was a response to recent research that revealed Australians were strongly dissatisfied with and generally unwilling to pay for apps.
The survey, commissioned by ACCAN, revealed that 42 percent of consumers who had paid for an app found it did not deliver as expected.
“What I probably would like to do is follow up on what the various state-based consumer affairs are actually receiving because we know the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) will only follow up on complaints on the telecommunications bill,” Corbin said.
She said that knowing who to complain to was often a source of confusion for consumers, given the TIO’s jurisdiction ends at telephone bills. Credit card payments were a matter for consumer protection authorities but unauthorised purchases associated with apps such as games could end up on both.
“There’s really quite a lot we’d like to follow up on including working with developers and industry associations to make some improvements because apart from anything else there needs to be a greater level of transparency for customers about such matters as whether their personal information is going to be on-sold to someone else,” Corbin said.
ACCAN said app store reviews and other peer-based mechanisms for keeping app developers honest were ineffective.
“They may not be completely up to date or people may not use them before they download and I think you get the angriest consumers writing about them. I don’t know that it’s the best way to manage a complaint,” Corbin said.
Fear of financial fraud topped the list of Australian consumers’ concerns, with 85 percent of those surveyed reporting that they were worried that an app may access sensitive credit card or bank account details.
Fear of losing personal privacy also ranked highly, with 63 percent of the survey reporting concerns about apps gaining access to their photos.
“We need to find better ways to inform consumers about the information that they’re providing to a developer and then what is happening with that information,” Corbin said.