The European Commission (EC) and EU member states are to raise consumer concerns with the mobile app industry, to help the app economy develop its full potential.
The EC said that consumers need to trust apps if the sector is to continue to innovate and maximise its potential, with in-app purchasing a particular area of concern.
Consumers are often not aware they are spending money in apps as their credit cards are charged by default, with children particularly vulnerable to marketing of free-to-download games that aren’t necessarily free to play.
Complaints have come from all over Europe, prompting the EC to meet to discuss the issues with national enforcement authorities and large technology companies.
Issues to be discussed are games advertised as free but costing money to play; games that encourage children to make in-app purchases; consumers not being adequately informed about payment arrangements; and how to contact developers when and issue arises.
The aim is for the technology industry to commit to providing means to ensure proper consumer protection for apps customers.
“For the sector to deliver on its potential consumers must have confidence in new products. Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection,” said Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner.
“The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organisations,” she added.
The Danish Consumer Ombudsman is leading the initiative with France, the UK, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Lithuania, members of the Consumer Protection Cooperation network also participating.
A recent report commissioned by the European Commission forecast that the app sector should contribute €63 billion to the EU economy by 2018 and employ 4.8 million people.
The UK Office of Fair Trading recently published a set of principles for the mobile app industry to adhere to when developing apps for children — with game developers and publishers given until 1 April to ensure their games comply with consumer protection law.