Watchdog To Clampdown On Rogue Mobile App Charges

Phonepayplus, the UK regulator of premium rate telephone services, has announced plans to increase protection for consumers from rogue mobile phone applications (apps) that run up huge bills without users’ knowledge or consent.
It has launched a public consultation with the telecoms and digital industries to find the best way to protect consumers from malicious app developers. New recommendations include clearer guidelines around consumers’ consent to charges and more transparency from developers about which parts of their service are free and which cost extra.
The move comes after two smartphone apps were found to be charging users via premium text messages without being warned.
One case involved the Better Battery app, which Phonepayplus identified as containing code that provided access to the phone’s text-messaging functionality, leading people to inadvertently sign up to a premium rate subscription service.
The service was immediately shut down by the regulator and an investigation was launched, resulting in an independent tribunal subsequently imposing a fine of £135,000. A second case concerning another app, Sexipix, ended in the suspension of the service and a fine of £30,000.
Phonepayplus said problems have mainly been reported on apps developed on Android and other open-source platforms, but added that it had not seen “much of a problem on the Apple platform”.
It said in a statement: “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.”