ACCC - Google Play - App Store
With Freemium based games getting ever more popular with developers as a good source of income, the potential danger with young children is that they can unknowingly rack up huge amounts of debt with very little to stop them.

The rise and rise of freemium based games that are aimed at children is being noticed on a global front and the Australian Competition and Consumer commission(ACCC) has today announced that they, along with 50 agencies globally, have started ‘engagement with platform operators’ such as Google with their Play store and Apple with their iOS App store to improve education and protection for consumers when using Freemium apps.

In a statement, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said

Consumers need to be aware that ‘free’ may not mean free. Games and apps in the ‘free’ area of an online store may be free to download but attract costs for in-app purchases. Some of these apps are marketed for children, who do not connect the game they are playing with spending their parent’s money in the real world.

While app stores, including Google Play often require a password to purchase a game or app, the in-app purchases often required to extend gameplay time or progress can be purchased without re-entering a password for up to 30 minutes after the initial purchase, an issue that sees children racking up large debts on their parents credit cards.

The ACCC has advised that parents should be following a checklist to try and prevent these charges occuring :

  • Learn how to control a device, including setting restrictions for passwords.
  • Consider disabling in app purchases for devices used by children. Step-by-step instructions are available at http://www.accc.gov.au/in-app-purchases.
  • Consider downloading apps for parental control of smart devices.
  • Get to know the technology your kids are using and the games they are playing.
  • Consider switching the internet off on your device when children are using it.
  • Use gift cards instead of credits cards.

The recent introduction of Google Play Gift Cards can certainly help with this; as can the restricted profiles now available on tablets running Android 4.3, which allow parents to disable in-app purchases all together on their childrens profile.

If your child gets their hands on your device and does start racking up charges, what are your options? Well, the ACCC has a checklist for that too :

  • Contact the app store as soon as possible to request a refund.
  • Contact your bank to discuss any unauthorised charges appearing on your credit card.
  • Visit the website of your local consumer protection agency or the ACCC for advice or contact them to make an inquiry or complaint.
  • Some app related purchases can be billed to your mobile bill. If you have a dispute about charges on your mobile bill that you can’t resolve with your service provider,

  • contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

All in all, it seems that vigilance is key, but it can happen to anyone and the ACCC is obviously taking steps to help. As to what action the ACCC can take once a complaint is made is not clear, but the ACCC does want to hear from you if you have a complaint, head over to their website and fill in the complaint form.

Source(s): ACCC
Via: CNet.
  • Pat

    @JeniSkunk:disqus Yes entirely agree, it’s a systemic, calculated ripoff and the governments can barely do anything about it. Of course the game designers know what they’re doing and Apple and Google have essentially encouraged it by allowing in-app purchases with no other controls applied.
    I’m not anti-google (am a developer), it’s just they take advantage of 80% of parents who are not tech literate.

  • Sujay Vilash

    The solution is very simple. Give the kids their own device with their own Google Play account. Give them a gPlay gift card and explain that they can only have a certain amount per quarter. If they waste it on In-App purchases, then it is their problem. That is what I do with my daughter who has very quickly learnt to limit her in-app purchases. In fact, her in-app spend has gone down to almost zero. If we do our parenting well, there is no need for ACCC inquiries, especially since they are a toothless tiger with no clout what so ever. Think about it. All they can say is that it is unfair. They will not be able to stop it.

  • homebrandcola

    Don’t give your password to your kids, monitor their use. Don’t blame someone else if you made a mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse.

    If your kids have free reign: don’t link a credit card, use gift card (little late to the party Google, a lot of people I know use iTunes gift cards as a way of allowing their kids to manage and access apps on their own iTunes account.)

  • Anthony

    And what about apps collecting data for purchases? In the US, a law called COPPA has been extended to cover apps-we have no similar law.

    It requires parental permission when data or apps are involved from under 13’s.

  • ozgreg

    The ACCC should first take the time to understand the changes to the google content policy from Sept 23rd 2013 which goes some way to address these concerns and of course important tips to mum use a password to stop play purchases always works well :-)

  • JeniSkunk

    It’s a shame that the ACCC is kept toothless so the freemium sys-scam can keep rolling along.

    • Matt Brooks

      Its a shame parents don’t take personal responsibility for how their child uses a piece of technology and instead find someone to blame. Its not hard to disable in app purchases and the notice that they have in app payments are displayed at the time of download.

      This is no different to people crying foul about how easy it is for their child to access porn yet taking no active steps themselves to understand how the net works and what they can do to fix whatever issue they have.

      We are becoming a nanny state because people like to blame others instead of finding a fault within themselves and fixing that fault.

      • Mark Corlson

        Very true.

      • Sujay Vilash

        Well said, Matt.

      • Pat

        The difficulty is that Apple and Google have made it so easy to make such in-app purchases and have encouraged the developers to include them for the only purpose of having kids purchase them.
        Maybe one day when you are a parent and it happens to you, you won’t be so quick to criticise.
        Yes I’m a parent, no it hasn’t happened to me, and yes fortunately I’m tech literate (software developer), though it doesn’t mean the other 80% of the population is such literate.