New ... iPhone 5.
APPLE has been accused by the NSW state government of "taking unfair advantage" of children after reports that parents were unwittingly being billed hundreds of dollars for their children's use of "free" apps.
The Fair Trading Minister, Anthony Roberts, said consumer regulators were examining ways to address the issue but called on Apple to find a fix. He said the company's defence that parents should protect themselves or activate parental control settings was unacceptable.
"Marketing in-app purchases is a money maker for Apple, but unless they build in protections for vulnerable consumers and children, they are taking unfair advantage to make money," the minister said. "I have written to Apple in the past, with no response received."
The ABC reported this week that parents were receiving credit card bills for many hundreds of dollars for games played by their children. The games are often "free" but allow for virtual items and add-ons to be bought within the app, charged straight to parents' credit cards via their iTunes accounts. Apple takes a 30 per cent cut of all transactions.
A class action is reportedly under way in the US by parents claiming in-app purchases are illegal and constitute misleading and deceptive conduct, "with children the clear target", Mr Roberts said.
He said Apple should acknowledge the need to "protect children and families from unwanted and unnecessary bills for artificial products".
The government is also seeking an "appropriate response" from Apple regarding the "price differential for Australians buying Apple products".
Mr Roberts said Australians should not have to set up iTunes accounts in the US to get the cheapest price for Apple products. "It's a global market and it should be a fair market."
The iPhone 5 goes on sale today at 8am.
The mobile comparison site WhistleOut, which has a partnership with Fairfax Media, warned that owners of 4G-enabled phones - such as the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3 4G - will need active protection to keep themselves safe from bill shock, especially those on entry-level plans.
Those on 4G networks can download movies, music, video podcasts and other content about four times faster than on 3G.
"A single five minute video in HD quality can require over 35MB," said WhistleOut's Cameron Craig. "That's almost 20 per cent of a 200MB cap gone in five minutes and HD video is easy to stream with 4G speeds."
The new voluntary telco industry code requires telcos to notify customers within 48 hours of their monthly value plans exceeding 50 per cent, 85 per cent, and 100 per cent of their allocated plan.
"A 48 hour delay in usage alerts means that there's still over-use black holes that a user can fall into on 4G," said Craig.
Meanwhile Apple's new mapping software has come under criticism for misplacing towns and cities. British users reported that London had been relocated to Ontario, Canada, and Dublin had gained a new airport.