Are Smartphone Apps Stealing Your Money?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: danieljromanod38

The BBC reports that the premium-rate call regulator, Phonepayplus, is looking for feedback on its regulation of smartphone apps after it found that rogue apps were charging users without their consent.

One app, which hasn’t been named, and has subsequently been shut down by the regulator, charged users £4.50 to automatically send and receive texts without the users knowledge.

PhonepayPlus has been following developments in the applications (‘apps’) market for some time. There can be no doubt that apps are revolutionising the way digital content is consumed and paid for in the UK. Apps have the ability to enrich the lives of millions of consumers and are a growing and important part of the UK’s digital economy. However, just as with any technological development, they can have their downsides. PhonepayPlus is working closely with many industry providers to understand developments in the apps market – both the opportunities and the threats. Our aim with this proposed Guidance is to intervene early to ensure that those downside risks do not have a detrimental impact on consumers, children or, indeed, the many legitimate providers of innovative new digital services.

There’s no indication whether iPhone or Android apps are more susceptible to this trickery, although given Apple’s notorious app approval process, you’d expect that it was Android apps at fault.

Regardless of the platform, Phonepayplus is looking for feedback on proposals that consumers’ consent to charge is clearer, password requirements are strengthened to prevent children buying items, and there is more explanation of the cost of virtual credit.

Read the full consultation document (PDF).

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