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Economic ministry: fine for Google's return policy legitimate

2012/02/03 19:07:13

Taipei, Feb. 3 (CNA) The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) ruled against a petition seeking to overrule a fine that the Taipei city government imposed on Google Inc. for its refund policy, saying that the penalty was legitimate, the city government said Friday.

Google failed to revise the standard contract for its Android Market app store to allow a seven-day free trial mechanism, despite being ordered to do so by the city in accordance with local law, said the city government's Law and Regulation Commission.

Google's failure to allow seven-day trials left consumers who had already paid for mobile apps unable to exercise their rights allowed for according to law. The ministry therefore dismissed the petition, said Yeh Ching-yuan, director of the commission.

According to MOEA's decision, after consumers provided credit card information and completed downloading an app, a contractual purchase agreement was immediately formed, part of the mail-order purchase protection under local law that covers transactions in which consumers cannot view merchandise before purchase.

In addition, Google argued during the petition that the company is not liable for apps or smartphone/cellphone software developed by third parties even if they are sold through their online platforms.

However, the MOEA ruled that Google is subject to the punishment as it is involved in the recruitment of Android Market employees and the management of Android Market's Taiwan website.

On June 3 last year, the city government ordered the local branches of Apple Inc. and Google to add a seven-day free trial mechanism to their mobile phone software stores within 15 days.

While Apple agreed to revise its return policy, Google insisted on maintaining its original policy that allows users refunds for paid apps within just 15 minutes of purchase.

On June 27 that year, the city government fined Google NT$1 million (US$33,898) for violating the Consumer Protection Act, which stipulates that consumers are entitled to return products they have bought online within seven days and obtain refunds if they are dissatisfied or if the goods are faulty.

Google has since suspended sales of paid apps from the Android Marketplace in Taiwan.

Yeh called on Google to respect local laws and the rights of consumers and resume the sales of apps.

(By Hsu Ya-chu and Jamie Wang)