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Consumers Can Apply for “Restricted Usage” or “Maximum Limit” Services from Mobile Carriers for Payment of Fees Incurred in Apps

Source:Department of Consumer Protection

Under the digital economy, apps play a vital role in people’s daily lives. Consequently, disputes about the fees incurred in apps paid via direct carrier billing have also been on the rise. To protect consumers’ rights and interests, the Executive Yuan's Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the National Communications Commission (NCC) have asked mobile carriers to provide protection mechanisms. Based on their actual needs, mobile phone users can now apply for “restricted usage” or “maximum limit” functions from carriers.

The DCP stated that due to the prevalence of the stay-at-home economy—a result from the pandemic—more and more consumers are using apps from Google Play, App Store, or other similar platforms to buy services (e.g., eBooks, online games, and online media streaming services). They sometimes pay the fees incurred in apps via direct carrier billing, which has caused many disputes. According to statistics from the DCP, from January 1 to July 31, 2021, there were 158 complaints concerning payments of fees incurred in apps through direct carrier billing services received by local authorities. Among them, 78 disputes resulted from “accidental in-app purchases” and/or “purchased amount exceeding consumers’ expectations.”

In order to take into account the convenience and safety of consumers, and based on the conclusions reached during a meeting between the NCC and DCP, telecom service providers have been asked to provide the following protection mechanisms, which should also be further promoted in their physical stores:

  1. Consumers who are worried that their children may accidentally make in-app purchases, or who don’t want to use direct carrier billing services in order to prevent embezzlement can ask their service providers for information on the “restricted usage” function by calling their customer service hotlines, visiting their websites or physical stores.
  2. If consumers still need direct carrier billing services (e.g., to pay fees for online courses or online games), but are worried about their inability to control their spending, they can inquire from their service providers the amount they consume at any time. Users can also contact their telecom providers to apply for the “maximum limit” function that caps the amount they can spend.

Lastly, the DCP would like to remind consumers that transactions concerning digital products have their own unique characteristics. As a result, to prevent disputes, consumers shall protect their mobile devices, accounts, and passwords related to fees incurred in apps and paid by linked credit cards or direct carrier billing services. In addition, they should always keep an eye on notifications received via mobile phone SMS and emails, so that they can respond to any situation in a timely manner.