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Americans would give up TV before Internet: survey
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 27, 2014

Top EU official warns of misleading app developers
Brussels (AFP) Feb 27, 2014 - Just two weeks after suggesting the European Union is on the cusp of a digitally led economic bonanza, officials warned Thursday that web developers may be misleading consumers.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called a two-day meeting with European developers of mobile apps and is warning them that to advertise products as 'free' only to charge consumers later could undermine confidence in the industry.

In particular, Reding said consumers are being short-changed by 'in-app' purchases -- in which users are able to download games but are later required to pay to continue playing.

"Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection," Reding said, adding that she expected "very concrete answers" from the app industry.

While it has not made its research into the problem public, the Commission said it has received complaints from "all over Europe" and it is particularly concerned about children being charged to upgrade games.

The meeting, which ends on Friday, will bring together lawyers and representatives from app start-ups, government consumer watchdogs from EU member states and industry leaders Google and Apple.

However, while industry observers agree children should be protected, there is concern that European regulators have misunderstood the "freemium" business model, which involves free downloads then small charges for upgrades.

"Nothing is for free and concern with this business model is naive," said Ann Mettler, executive director of The Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based technology think-tank.

"Start-ups need to generate money and there is nothing wrong with offering users free basic services then giving them the option to upgrade," Mettler says.

However, the Commission said the freemium model targets children through default purchase settings, which can result in mobile app users being debited without explicit consent.

"It might not always be clear where the freemium model ends and where the payment begins," said James Waterworth, from the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

"It is excellent that the Commission is getting industry players together to agree on standards, rather than approaching it with heavy handed court-cases which would take years to resolve," Waterworth said.

Other observers point out the regulatory concerns are in contrast with the upbeat assessment of tech start-ups released earlier this month by EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, suggesting the EU's digital economy could employ nearly five million people by 2018.

An EU official suggested that children running up bills on their parents' tablet computers is "a real issue" but warned against the risk of over-reacting.

Americans have become so enamored of the Internet, they would more readily forgo television than online access, a survey showed Thursday.

The Pew Research Center survey released ahead of the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web found 53 percent of US Internet users would find it "very hard" to give up Web access, up from 38 percent in 2006.

Even when counting those who don't go online, Pew said 46 percent of all adults would find it hard to give up the Internet.

By contrast, Pew's survey showed 35 percent of all US adults television would be very hard to give up, compared with 44 percent in 2006.

Women were more likely than men to be attached to the Internet, as were people with higher levels of income and education, Pew said in the report issued ahead of the March 12 anniversary.

- Cell phone second on list -

The cell phone comes in a close second to the Internet: 49 percent of mobile phone owners said it would be difficult to give up their handset, up from 43 percent in 2006. That amounts to 44 percent of all adults who say now that their cell phone would be very hard to live without.

Meanwhile landline telephones are losing favor.

Just 28 percent of landline telephone owners said it would be a hardship to live without this, a big drop from 48 percent in 2006. Because many people have already dropped their landlines, the finding means that just 17 percent of all adults would find their landline very hard to give up.

Pew noted the spectacular growth in use of the Web, especially since 1995. Some 87 percent of American adults use the Internet, either from a PC or mobile device, up from 14 percent in 1995.

Pew also found that Americans are using the Web more often: 71 percent go online on a typical day, compared with 29 percent in 2000.

In 1995, 42 percent of US adults had never heard of the Internet and another 21 percent had only a vague notion of what it was.

The rise of mobile device use represents the biggest shift in access in recent years: 68 percent of US adults now access the Internet on a cell phone, tablet, or other mobile device, at least occasionally, Pew found.

Pew found that 90 percent of US adults have a cell phone and two-thirds of those use their device to go online. A third of cell phone owners say that their primary online access point is their phone.

Mobile access took a huge leap forward with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, and some 58 percent of adults have a smartphone now.

- Web is 'a good thing' -

The report found 90 percent of Internet users say the World Wide Web has been a good thing for them personally and only six percent say it has been a bad thing.

Three out of four said it been a good thing for society, while 15 percent say it has been negative.

"Using the Web -- browsing it, searching it, sharing on it -- has become the main activity for hundreds of millions of people around the globe," Pew said.

"Its birthday offers an occasion to revisit the ways it has made the internet a part of Americans' social lives."


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