Coherent regulation best for apps | ACMA

Coherent regulation best for apps

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Media release 35/2013 - 30 May

While Australians have embraced mobile apps in a big way, there are emerging concerns about sharing personal information and challenges to regulation intended to protect users, according to a new Australian Communications and Media Authority paper, Mobile apps—Emerging issues in media and communications, Occasional paper 1.

In this, the first of a series of four occasional papers addressing various emerging issues in contemporary communications and media, the ACMA discusses the impact on industry, consumers and citizens of tensions inherent in the current regulation of mobile apps. Assessing these tensions is intended to inform the ACMA’s consideration of regulatory strategies to engage constructively with the developing networked society and information economy.

‘From a regulatory point of view, the shifts in communications and media usage that apps represent are not adequately reflected in existing legislative or regulatory concepts. We believe that consumers using apps would best be protected by a single coherent regulatory framework,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

The number of adult consumers with smartphone who downloaded apps increased by 85 per cent from 2.41 million in June 2011 to 4.45 million in June 2012.

‘Consumer experiences have generally been positive. However, with mobile apps, including Facebook, shaping the way Australians share their personal information, there are some early indications of problem areas emerging, particularly where risks associated with apps are poorly understood,’ Mr Chapman said.

Australians use apps to connect with others, access information, play games and navigate their way around the online and offline world. With growing numbers of Australian consumers using smartphones, app downloads are set to increase even further.

‘While the majority of apps are free to download, there is a “cost” to the consumer. Apps incorporate sophisticated tools for collecting information about the user and their online behaviours. Consumers need to be aware of this and how to protect their personal information,’ Mr Chapman added.

Some important matters for apps providers and consumers to consider include:

  • pricing and payment mechanisms for in-app purchases
  • the ability for consumers to complain and take action
  • implications of apps giving rise to unexpected high data usage
  • content controls for children to restrict access to age inappropriate content.

More information is available in the Backgrounder below. To arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au.

Backgrounder

In this series of occasional papers, the ACMA is examining issues in contemporary communications and media. This is an integral part of the ACMA’s regulatory role in facilitating innovative services to consumers in the Australian market, as well as assisting individual citizens to positively manage their communications and media experience.

Mobile apps or applications are software programs that are installed on smartphones and other communications devices.

Apps represent one of the most significant developments in media and communications occurring over the past five years.

The apps market has grown rapidly since the ACMA last examined the mobile apps market in May 2011 in its paper Emerging business models in the digital economy— The mobile applications market.

It is at the heart of an evolution that has transformed a mobile telephone from a voice and text-based platform to one where a diverse range of media and communications can be accessed from a single device. 

It brings together previously distinct industry sectors from computing, publishing and financial services with traditional communications and media.

As a consequence this is likely to require very different types of regulatory responses to assist citizens in managing digital content across a broad range of their economic and social interactions.

The other forthcoming papers in the series will look at:

Last updated: 15 September 2016