ACCC takes on in-app purchases targeting children

Apps for kids
All for the children...

In-app purchases have long been a problem-point where unsuspecting kids can wrack up bills up into the hundreds for parents.

Today, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has also joined around 50 other global agencies to "identify smartphone and tablet apps that may mislead young children into making unauthorised in-app purchases".

Although the ACCC acknowledged that a lot of app stores require a password and give a warning before an app or in-app content is purchased, additional purchases can sometimes be made for a period time without having to enter the password again.

"I have heard from concerned parents whose children have been caught out with unfamiliar technology and racking up a sky-high credit card bill," said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

"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. A child can unwittingly make one in-app purchase costing $100 or 100 in-app purchases costing $1 each."

Game money

Apple faced scrutiny earlier this year over free apps on iTunes targeted toward children and offering ridiculous in-app purchases.

The Australian Communications Consumers Action Network (ACCAN) also urged the Australian government to have apps that claim to be free but include significant in-app purchases be examined under the Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC hopes to examine and identify games that are free, but don't explicitly state that significant in-app purchases would be required to access or utilise a large portion of the app.

"Consumers need to be aware that 'free' may not mean free," said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

"Games and apps in the 'free' area of an online store may be free to download, but attract costs for in-app purchases."

The ACCC has opened up consultation for anyone who thinks they may have been misled by apps and in-app purchases.