Today PhonepayPlus launched a pilot to regulate app store purchases that are charged to your phone bill. Here’s the regulator’s Chairman to explain the new payment method and the protections that come with it.
Google’s Play Store will be the first participant in the pilot, which PhonepayPlus is running in its role as the UK’s premium rate phone services regulator.
Over the past year, Google and a number of other major app stores have been rolling out phone billing to their users. This means that consumers on participating phone networks have the option of paying for digital content like apps, games, music and videos on their phone bills rather than using credit, debit or pre-paid gift cards.
New app store protections
Paying on phone bills can be a popular alternative when purchasing content and offers app developers another way for customers to buy their product.
Crucially, people who pay on their phone bill will also now benefit from the consumer protections set out in the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice, in addition to the app stores’ own policies. These are that providers and services:
- Must comply with the law.
- Must ensure that consumers are fully and clearly informed of key information, such as the price, before purchase.
- Must treat customers fairly and equitably.
- Must not cause the unreasonable invasion of customers’ privacy.
- Must not cause harm or unreasonable offence to consumers or to the general public.
- Must ensure that consumers are able to have complaints resolved and any refunds paid quickly and easily.
These protections, which amount to a new digital deal for consumers, are important in the digital environment where payments are frictionless and people can be tempted into making impulse purchases that may add up to considerable sums.
Running up big app bills
As a regulator, we’re particularly concerned about the problem of children running up high bills when making repeat purchases, such as through in-app payments. We recognise that this issue is of growing concern to parents and we are working closely with Google, other app stores, consumer bodies and other regulators like the Competition and Markets Authority to address this problem.
There are three simple pieces of advice that can help if you buy apps via your phone bill:
1. Check the price before you buy an app. If the app is free, check whether it offers any in-app payments and what ‘permissions’ it will request.
2. Check your phone bill regularly and query anything that you aren’t sure about.
3. Be careful if clicking on any in-app ads, new app icons or notifications that you don’t recognise and make sure you understand what they do.
In case of problems, you should contact the app store and your mobile network. If the problem isn’t resolved, contact PhonepayPlus online or phone 0800 500 212.
Your stories of buying apps
We’d welcome feedback on your (or your children’s) experience of purchasing digital content through app stores. While we recognise that most people will have had a positive experience, we’re keen to hear of any problems that you’ve encountered, such as running up unexpectedly high bills and whether you successfully gained a refund.
Would you buy smartphone apps via your phone bill? Are you pleased to see extra protections in place?
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Andrew Pinder, Chairman of PhonepayPlus. All opinions expressed are Andrew’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.