Are your apps over-charging you?

by Dale Wright

When you download an app on your smartphone, how do you know that your personal details are safe? You might be prone to additional charges and fees just by giving rogue apps access to your mobile phone number.

Two Android apps made by Redmobile have been found to be charging customers subscription fees without them knowing. The adult apps did this sneakily – simply by sending and receiving texts – so they didn’t even need the user’s credit card details, and they didn’t need to process the payment through a payment gateway such as PayPal. The charges were almost silent.

The mobile regulator, Phonepayplus, received two complaints in June and investigated Redmobile. They found that three of their picture-swapping apps were set up to send and receive subscription texts. Each weekly text cost a huge £4.50 to send or receive, meaning that the customers could have found themselves paying more than £234 a year had they not realised what was going on. Redmobile had made more than £5,000 from these sneaky subscriptions.

Phoneplayplus ordered Redmobile to pay the fees back to everyone that had complained, plus a massive £30,000 fine.

Phonepayplus are now looking into ways to make app purchases clearer and safer. They are also working out ways to make it harder for children to buy apps on their parents’ phones without them knowing.

As it becomes easier to download apps, and since more and more apps charge for content, charges could easily slip onto our phone bills and credit card statements. If you don’t have itemised billing on your mobile phone contract, how do you know what you’re being charged?

Are we going to find it harder to keep track on what we’re spending?