Call for tech giants to better police ‘free apps’ duping children

Call for tech giants to better police ‘free apps’ duping children

The major tech companies should be doing more to protect against smartphone and tablet apps that dupe children into making unauthorized purchases, according to one digital expert.

The call from Matt Robinson, managing director at AnalogFolk, comes in the wake of The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warning that it could bring action against app makers who claim their product is free but continue to charge while the user is playing the game.   

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard told the ABC  that more than 50 consumer protection agencies around the world are launching a push against the apps that mislead children.

Although Robinson admitted that a lot of apps do use smart pricing strategies, action needs to be taken to stop app makers acting in a underhand way that could put children at risk.

“The design of these ads can be very sneaky, using pop up banner ads etc,” said Robinson. “There’s a major issue definitely that the likes of Apple, Google and other players need to police this more tightly. They exert a lot of control on what gets in and out of their systems as it is," he said.

Robinson (pictured) said that as a pricing model, this type of strategy has been going on for a while, particularly in mobile space.

"The first one I remember being a commercial success was Jamie Oliver’s iPhone app. It was essentially a smart pricing strategy, where it offered you a little bit of value for a little bit of money, and then as the value increases it found more ways of finding value.”

Robinson said that it’s difficult for the authorities to stay ahead of curve against the games companies, so he’s called on the likes of Apple to do more.

"Although I’ve said that it’s smart from a business pricing point of view, there’s an issue building that kind of model for kids, who are not equipped to decipher what these companies are actually doing.

“It should be up to the likes of Apple to put the controls in place, whether that’s the ability to report apps that are acting in sneaky way, or actually itself reviewing any app that’s designed for kids and deciding whether they need to remove it,” he added.

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