Interesting discussion Jamie – thanks for kicking it off.
I had a German app company establishing in Ireland come to me recently about drafting privacy policies and ts&cs for their app, which is offered on a freemium basis. They asked about how common privacy policies and ts&cs are in the Irish app market and I said not common at all, the app world is still the "wild west" when it comes to these documents, and to complying with consumer laws. Compliance is bit better on website offerings, but not brilliant – even the big companies seem take a while to get in line.
Someone in the thread says that the law is way behind technology, but, you know, I do not think that is quite true. Nearer the truth is that technology companies in certain markets are way behind in compliance. The laws are generally technology neutral, so someone offering the next "new thing" to consumers still will find a raft of consumer protection laws that apply to it, if they care to look into it.
In my private life I too buy apps, avail of services, buy products, tweet, discuss matters online, and all that good stuff, on websites and apps that either have no terms and conditions, or have crap ones – and I don’t generally read the terms and conditions before acting either. I suppose the difference is that I am alive to the application of the law, and make decisions sometimes based on what approach has been taken to the legals, more often when I have a bad service or suffered at the end of a sharp practice. I’ve successfully complained a couple of times when someone tried to pull a fast one on me in terms of charging, most recently with an internet company that I switching from, where the break charge was in complete breach of unfair contract terms, distance selling and a few other laws.
Where is the NCA when it comes to highlighting areas that need improvement and educating suppliers and consumers alike? Where indeed. That is the entity that we should see helping everyone in this area, not ComReg.
Its a bit more challenging to get the compliance model right in the app environment, because you are basically trading on someone else’s proprietary platform (which they can change at any time) and so you have to work with that constraint in mind. It would be helpful if the platform operators built in "compliance by design", but we are a way off that at the minute.
Anyway, back to the coalface.