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Mobile apps’ ‘hidden threats’ to be regulated

Rogue mobile phone apps that run up huge bills without users’ knowledge are set to be regulated, under a new consultation

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Mobile phone applications sometimes pose “hidden threats to consumers” and could be subject to greater control, regulator PhonepayPlus has said.

The UK regulator of premium rate telephone services said that it had already taken action on apps which maliciously charge consumers without their knowledge or consent.

In one example, a ‘free battery saver’ app contained malware – identified by PhonepayPlus monitoring – that accessed the phone’s text message function and allowed texts to be automatically sent and received. Text messages were then sent that subscribed consumers to a premium rate subscription service without their knowledge or consent.

The service was immediately shut down and an independent tribunal subsequently imposed a fine of £135,000.

New recommendations include clearer guidelines around how consumers consent to be charged and how app developers indicate what is free and what costs extra.

The regulations also propose tighter controls around virtual currency and how malware is identified, as well as when passwords have to be entered.

Paul Whiteing, PhonepayPlus’ Chief Executive, said retaining consumers’ trust was in the industry’s interest. “We will not hesitate to use our robust sanctioning powers to drive out rogue providers who could damage a vital part of the UK’s growing and innovative digital and creative economies,” he said.

Filed in: Technology News

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