None of the nation’s most popular messaging apps — Line, WhatsApp, WeChat, M+ Messenger, PChome IM and RaidCall — protect consumers sufficiently, the Consumers’ Foundation said yesterday.
The apps were evaluated based on their data sharing policies, user’s contractual rights, account management, system security and personal data security, with all six apps failing to meet one or more of the criteria, it said.
On average, consumers file more than 100 legal complaints about apps per year, most of which relate to stickers or credits that vanish after purchase, the loss of an account due to theft or deletion by the developer, or a lack of customer service channels, the foundation said.
The majority of the app developers failed to comply with the Executive Yuan’s regulatory standards on instant messaging service contracts, it said.
The regulation, promulgated in May last year, requires app developers to specify their refund policy and to inform users of their contractual rights, the foundation said.
Line and RaidCall are the only apps that specify their refund policies in case of service termination, while Line is the only one that truthfully informs users of their contractual rights, it said.
Line is also the only one to specify that a user will receive a notification for suspension of their account seven days before the fact, it added.
However, Line, PChome IM, M+ Messenger and RaidCall’s user agreements contain language that exempts developers from responsibility in a variety of situations or asserts the right to make changes to the terms at will, foundation vice chairman Teng Wei-chung (鄧惟中) said.
The regulation clearly states that developers are responsible for informing users of changes to the terms of service and unannounced changes are null and void, he said.
Those regulatory standards were designed to safeguard users’ rights so that they do not lose their conversation logs or other information should they become victims of hacking and have their accounts deleted, he said.
WeChat is the only app to consistently inform users of changes to its terms of service, he said.
App developers that fail to meet the regulatory standards for terms of service are required to bring their contracts into compliance or incur a NT$30,000 to NT$300,000 fine, foundation chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said.
Developers that repeatedly fail to meet government standards could face a repeatable fine of NT$50,000 to NT$500,000, he said.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs, the main governmental regulator of apps, should be more proactive and ensure that developers comply to consumer protection rules, he added.
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