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Parents fear 'bill shock' from children using mobile apps

Wednesday, July 8th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A quarter of parents want more information to help stop children running up high mobile phone bills, according to new research.

The UK regulator for premium rate phone services, PhonepayPlus, found that 12% of UK parents – 1.3m people – have had a child run up an unexpectedly high bill by making in-app purchases.

According to the UK representative poll, 41% of parents are concerned about their child doing the same and causing what is known as ‘bill shock’.

PhonepayPlus released the figures as it announced the finalists of a short film competition for 11 to 18-year-olds run by e-safety charity Childnet.

The regulator sponsored the PhoneBrain category of the competition, which asked entrants to focus on apps or in-app purchases.

PhoneBrain was launched by PhonepayPlus to educate children and young people about premium rate services and charges that can be made to phone bills.

Young people entering the competition were given information on ‘bill shock’ and helped to understand what charges can be made through phones.

Joanne Prowse, acting chief executive of PhonepayPlus, said: “As the regulator for phone-paid services, we hear about a variety of issues young people encounter when using smartphones.

“We take an active interest in educating young people to engage with these services confidently and safely.

'In control'

“PhoneBrain educates young people and their parents about what to be aware of online so that they remain in control of what they are accessing and being charged.

“This year, by joining with Childnet on PhoneBrain we have been able to reach even more young people through the film competition.”

In recent years PhonepayPlus has dealt with a number of cases where children have unexpectedly incurred high charges on their phone bills.

Cases have included children clicking on a banner ad in a game which has led to signing up for chargeable content, or through clicking on in-game credits in an app, not realising there were charges linked to each click.

In May 2014, PhonepayPlus launched a 12-month app stores pilot to address the differences between app stores models and traditional premium rate services and to ensure the right protections for consumers.

Google’s Play Store was the first participant. Consumer engagement was strong and complaints remained low, leading to the pilot’s conditions being made permanent.

Childnet CEO Will Gardner said: “For the last five years our film competition has given primary and secondary school aged children from across the UK, the challenge of creating a short film about internet safety.

“This year we have teamed up with PhonepayPlus’ PhoneBrain competition which saw children challenged to produce a two minute film advising other young people about how to prevent incurring unexpectedly high bills through the use of apps and digital content."

The winners of the competition will be announced at an awards ceremony at the British Film Institute on Monday (13 July), he said.

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