On April 22, the FTC issued a Report concerning consumer protection issues arising in the mobile commerce marketplace, entitled “Beyond Voice: Mapping the Mobile Marketplace.”  The Report followed several public meetings involving the FTC since 2000, including those held on May 6-7, 2008 and in November of 2006. In concluding that “the FTC staff is committed to policing the wireless space to ensure consumer protections are in place,” several key findings included:

  • Cost disclosures about mobile services continue to generate consumer complaints. The FTC staff will monitor cost disclosures, bring law enforcement actions as appropriate, and work with industry on improving its self-regulatory enforcement.
  • The FTC and its law enforcement partners should continue to monitor the impact on consumers of unwanted mobile text messages, malware, and spyware, and take law enforcement action as needed.
  • Although spyware and malware have not yet emerged as a significant problem on mobile devices, that situation can change as consumers increasingly use mobile devices for a wide variety of applications, including Internet access. The FTC staff encourages stakeholders to continue developing strategies that prevent or minimize the spread of spam, spyware, and malware on consumers’ mobile devices.
  • The increasing use of smartphones to access the mobile Web presents unique privacy challenges, especially regarding children. The FTC will expedite the regulatory review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule to determine whether the rule should be modified to address changes in the mobile marketplace. This review, originally set for 2015, instead will begin in 2010. An opportunity for public comment will be provided.

Given the numbers of wireless and mobile devices in the hands of individuals under the age of 18 (and 13), and the increasing proliferation of mobile devices, this will become a hotter topic in the months and years ahead. As if this point needed to be emphasized, it has been reported that as of January 2007—two years ago—there were approximately 800 million cars, 850 million personal computers, 1.5 billion television sets, but already 2.7 billion (yes, billion) wireless and mobile devices in use around the globe, with more than 800 million e-mail and 1.8 billion SMS text-messaging users.

For more information on this topic, also check out the Legal Bytes blog.