April 17, 2013

OFT launches investigation into smartphone apps

An investigation into smartphone applications advertised as free, which later run up large bills through add-ons, is being launched by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Thousands of apps are advertised as free. But in some cases, while they are free to download, people are running up large fees by paying for extras within the game. Children in particular are doing this, resulting in some surprisingly high phone bills for parents.

Cavendish Elithorn, senior director for goods and consumer at the OFT, commented on the situation: "We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually urn up substantial costs."

In one case, a parent reported being hit with charges of more than £3,000 for content in a game that their child was a fan of.

The investigation is due to focus on whether or not the way in which the add-ons are marked breaches consumer law. However, there may be further inquiries into the way in which the games are initially sold.

The next phase of the investigation is due to be published by October of this year.

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