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A federal government inquiry has identified major difficulties for consumers who attempt to obtain refunds for app purchases.

The Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) inquiry released its findings in the ‘Purchases by Australian consumers on mobile and handheld devices’ report.

It identified the difficulty in obtaining refunds for apps and digital content as a major issue facing consumers of digital products.

The Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, David Bradbury, issued a warning to digital business – that consumers have rights under the Australian Consumer Law, even when the product they are purchasing is a digital download.

“Consumers are entitled to expect their problem to be resolved where a consumer guarantee has not been met and may be entitled to a refund or replacement,” Bradbury said.

In its report, CCAAC expressed concerns about situations where consumers requesting a refund are shunted between app distributors and app developers, or in some cases being misled about their rights.

“I have referred the CCAAC report’s findings to the independent consumer watchdog, the ACCC, and have asked them to look at any education or enforcement activities that may be required,” Bradbury added.

The report also noted the concerns of consumers using ‘freemium’ apps that are free to download but have paid content embedded in them. These apps have been a particular issue for parents who have allowed their children to use them, only to later uncover unexpected bills.

CCAAC has noted its concerns about refund policies with industry stakeholders and has encouraged Commonwealth, state and territory consumer agencies to undertake compliance and enforcement activities as appropriate.

The inquiry body also encouraged industry stakeholders to work with consumer agencies to develop industry best practices to improve consumer experiences.

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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