Australia investigates 'free' apps for children

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The Australian government announced Nov. 5 that it will conduct an inquiry into free mobile apps targeted to children that encourage expensive game play.

The inquiry will examine consumer experience when downloading and using apps--"including when used by children," and the amount of upfront information disclosed to consumers about the costs associated with an app.

Australian media has recently drawn attention to addictive game apps for children linked to parents' credit cards that end up costing families a small fortune for a putatively free game. Australian Broadcasting Corporation news show Lateline found one family whose 9-year-old daughter racked up a A$600 bill over 3 days, mostly with a game called Top Girl.

"I encourage all Australian consumers and businesses engaged in m-commerce to have their say and tell the inquiry about their experiences with the rapidly-changing nature of online business," Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said in a statement.

Similar concerns have arisen in the United States. Earlier this year, a group of California parents mounted a class-action suit against Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) over such apps, with a San Jose judge dismissing company efforts to get the case dismissed, the Los Angeles Times reported in April.  

For more:
- go to the Australian Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council terms of reference on the inquiry

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