Chapter 16: App-solutely protected? The protection of consumers using mobile apps in the European Union
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This chapter focuses on the protection of the consumer under EU law when purchasing and using applications (apps) for mobile phones. It examines the provisions of two principal EU consumer protection measures, namely the Consumer Rights Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practice Directive, as they apply to the particular digital product which creates special consumer needs. Under these two EU Directives, the consumer is entitled to receive prior information on the product and some of this information is often tailored to the nature of applications as digital content. Moreover, under certain circumstances, the consumer can withdraw from an “app-contract” without having to pay for any content he or she has received. More generally, the consumer should not be misled into purchasing a mobile application or making in-app purchases, and certain of the techniques utilized to push consumers towards such purchases are liable to be considered aggressive and thus legally impermissible even when not misleading. The chapter shows that legislation is in place to protect the consumer, yet as the rules are not app-specific, many issues surrounding their interpretation or practical application may cause problems. The European Commission and national regulatory bodies have issued useful guidelines regarding the application of the rules to mobile applications, but certain issues seem to merit further clarification.

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