Sat, Jun 04, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Apple, Google told to offer free trial

UNFAIR:An official said the lack of a return and refund mechanism violated the Consumer Protection Act and left customers without recourse if software did not work

Staff Writer, with CNA

The Taipei City Government has ordered local branches of Apple Inc and Google Inc to introduce a seven-day free trial program at their mobile phone software stores within 15 days, a senior official said yesterday.

“If the two companies fail to meet the requirement by the deadline, they may be slapped with fines of up to NT$1.5 million [US$52,300],” said Yeh Ching-yuan (葉慶元), head of the city government’s Law and Regulation Commission.

Consumers can buy and download applications on their mobile phones through Apple Store or Google’s Android Market, but neither offers a seven-day free trial program that allows customers to return the applications or receive refunds.

Yeh said the absence of a return and refund mechanism violates the Consumer Protection Act (消費者保護法), which requires corporations to offer a free trial period of at least seven days.

In the past, online shopping operators said that they were not covered by the provision, but Yeh said the city government reached an agreement with online auction Web site operators last year to have them adhere to the free-trial provision.

Yeh said because purchasing mobile app software via smartphones or cellphones was a recent trend, the city government did not include this market in last year’s deal.

The commission has given Apple and Google a 15-day grace period to revise their mobile phone software sales and service provisions to include a seven-day free trial mechanism.

If they refuse to abide by the directive, the two companies could face fines ranging between NT$60,000 and NT$1.5 million, Yeh said.

In an example of the problem the city government is trying to prevent, Yeh cited a case of software bought on Apple Store on Thursday that did not work, but left the buyer without recourse.

According to Apple Store and Android Market rules, the two companies are not liable for apps or smartphone/cellphone software developed by a third party, even if they are sold through their online platforms.

“Such a claim is an irresponsible business practice,” Yeh said.

Yeh said that if flawed software apps were thought to threaten the financial interests of potential buyers, online suppliers of those programs would be ordered to stop sales and allow customers to return them or get refunds, in accordance with Article 36 of the Consumers Protection Act.

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