Free apps controversy

The digital association Bitkom has expressed skepticism about the current decisions of the EU Council of Ministers on the EU directive on the law of contract for digital content. This is intended to introduce a specific consumer right for digital goods such as apps, music, films or games, as well as online services provided at EU level. At the same time, the principle of “data as a currency” would be anchored for the first time in EU law.

This means that, for example, an app that is offered for free to download is treated the same as a paid one, if the user in turn passes on personal data to the provider. This would also give the consumer warranty rights, such as repair, updates or return, for free offers. “Especially for free offers such as apps or games, claims for repair are a thing of the past,” says Bitkom Chief Executive Officer Dr. Bernhard Rohleder. “The regulation would affect the many small providers of free apps.

In many cases, apps are not commercially viable business models. The legislature, with such obligations, goes far beyond the target. In particular, start-ups that are quickly introduced to the market with innovative solutions are overshadowed by such regulations and could suffer a competitive disadvantage from providers that can grow on other, less strictly regulated markets.

“In practice, Bitkom believes that warranty claims for free digital goods always result in the reverse processing of the contract, since repair or reworking does not make sense for the supplier. This would mean the consumer would have to delete the app and get his data back. However, the new European Data Protection Act (DSGVO) already provides the latter right: every user can request the deletion of his data without stating reasons. Rohleder: “The new contract law for digital content gives the consumer a right which he already has today. The consumer is not helped, but for the providers of free digital content the situation becomes very uncertain.”

Ralf Johanning

Ralf Johanning studied political science and works as a freelance journalist. For over ten years now he reports on the transportation and logistics industry. The priorities include topics such as telematics, software, and ICT. In 2006 the trained editor, Head, and Press Officer founded the editorial office Alte Schule with his partner Ann-Christin Wimber.

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