Regulator Says In-App Purchase Complaints Rise By 300 Percent

Smartphone battery © Pavel Ignatov Shutterstock 2012

PhonePayPlus warns parents and children of dangers of malware and in-app purchases

PhonePayPlus, the UK regulator of premium rate phone services, has said the number of complaints it has received about children rose by around 300 percent last year and has warned parents about the dangers of in-app purchases.

In its latest report entitled ‘Children as Connected Consumers’, the regulator said parents and children should be aware of the potential costs of smartphone apps and they should investigate content restriction options or take out pay-as-you-go price plan.

In-app purchase complaints

“Connected devices will define the age in which today’s children live and we are determined to ensure that they can receive the benefits while being protected from the risks,” said Paul Whiteing, chief executive of PhonePayPlus. “Smartphones in children’s pockets can burn holes in parent’s wallets, so we are working with partners across industry and other agencies to prevent this.”

It said two in three children aged between 11 and 16 had downloaded a free app onto their phone, increasing the risk of voluntary in-app purchases from legitimate applications or involuntary charges from malware masquerading as genuine, popular titles.

Fake versions of games such as Angry Birds and Cut The Rope have appeared in the past, each charging £15 to a customer’s phone bill every time the app was opened.

PhonePayPlus also cited the example of a 14-year-old’s naivety and trusting nature on social networks being exploited to make them pay for virtual credits for someone who wanted to contact their dying grandmother.

“This is a real challenge for parents and for us as a regulator but this plan meets that challenge head on,” said Whiting.

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