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Google fined for refusing to offer 7-day free trial for apps

2011/06/27 22:02:18

Taipei, June 27 (CNA) The Taipei City government slapped Google Inc. with a fine of NT$1 million (US$34,482.7) Monday after the world's largest Internet-search service declined to introduce a seven-day free trial mechanism for its mobile phone app store.

Yeh Ching-yuan, director of the city's Law and Regulation Commission, said Google was penalized for violating Taiwan's Consumer Protection Act, which stipulates that consumers are entitled to return products they have bought online within seven days and get refunds if they are dissatisfied or if the goods are faulty.

According to Google's Android Market service regulations, those who buy and download application software through the online platform have only a 15-minute window to return the app if they are not satisfied.

"Such a short trial period is in stark violation of our online shopping rules," Yeh said, adding that if Google fails to come up with a plan to mend the situation in line with Taiwan's law, it may be fined further.

Users of Apple's iPhones and Google's Android smartphones can buy and download application software through the Apple Store and Android Market, respectively, but neither offered a free-trial mechanism before this probe began.

Earlier this month, the city government gave both companies a 15-day grace period to revise their mobile phone software sales and service provisions to accomodate such a mechanism.

While Apple responded positively to the request last week, Google declined to comply, according to Chen Pi-chu, the city government's chief consumer ombudsman.

"On Monday, a U.S.-based Google executive informed us by phone that the company could not abide by the seven-day free-trial regulations and would suspend online smartphone software sales," Chen said.

Google argued that the seven-day free-trial mechanism is difficult for software developers to manage.

Personnel sent by Google's U.S. headquarters are on their way to Taiwan to better understand the issue, a Google local executive said, adding that the company has suspended smartphone software sales through its Android Market pending further discussions with Taipei city officials.

According to the executive, a 15-minute free-trial period is the norm for global online software trading, arguing that consumers can easily decide whether to return a specific software program within a few minutes after downloading it.

Chen said the city government will decide whether to slap Google with a second fine after discussions with representatives from its U.S. headquarters.

(By Johnson Sun and Sofia Wu)