Regulator tightens rules on rogue mobile app charges

Developers could face stricter rules over mobile application charges following changes to the way premium rate services are regulated.

Developers could face stricter rules over mobile application charges following changes to the way premium rate services (PRS) are regulated.

Regulator PhonepayPlus has launched a public consultation on its proposed guidance on mobile apps following an "increasing need" to address issues surrounding premium-rate texts and other hidden charges in some mobile applications.

PhonepayPlus cited a recent example of a supposed free battery-saver app, which could access phone text messaging functions and sign-up to premium rate subscription service without users' consent.

"Our aim 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 that we want to encourage within UK plc," said PhonepayPlus in a statement.

The regulator has outlined risks in the lack of transparency surrounding some app purchases, particularly with "freemium" apps, which can charge consumers once the free-trial period lapses.

The regulator also outlined risks in malware that charge consumers without consent. The organisation proposes password protection for some paid-for apps.

The regulator has the ability to fine providers up to £250,000 for breach of its code of practice and can also ban named providers from the UK market. PhonepayPlus's code of practice came into force on 1 September 2011.

The public consultation closes on 5th December 2011.

According to the BBC, PhonepayPlus recently shut down two rogue mobile apps that charged unknowing users.

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