In-app purchases and consumer protection
Produced in partnership with Hunton Andrews Kurth

The following TMT practice note produced in partnership with Hunton Andrews Kurth provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • In-app purchases and consumer protection
  • Definitions
  • Regulatory framework
  • Background
  • The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
  • The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013
  • Advertising law
  • Best practice
  • The CMA’s principles for online and app-based games

In-app purchases and consumer protection

Mobile applications (apps) have become as ubiquitous as the smartphones, tablets and other mobile computing devices that support them. With the growth in the popularity of apps, developers have increasingly sought ways to earn revenue from the often large user bases that their apps support. In-app purchases, where developers charge users for content within apps, rather than (or in addition to) the app itself, have become common. Developers have however been criticised for failing to ensure that their in-app purchase mechanisms are transparent and consumer friendly. There have been several high profile cases in which consumers have been charged, in some cases several thousands of pounds, for in-app purchases they claimed were unauthorised.

In September 2014, Google entered into a settlement agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to refund at least $19m to parents for unauthorised charges incurred by their children through in-app purchases. Apple had agreed a settlement of almost $32.5m with the FTC in January 2014 on similar grounds. In 2016 Amazon lost a related multi-million dollar case after allowing apps costing less than $20 to be purchased without passwords, which led to many parents incurring charges when their children began downloading cheaper apps. These settlements and cases applied in respect of customers located in the US only. Given the media attention such incidents have drawn, however,

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