App development can take years, but a successful launch can quickly become a fast-growing business. With so much riding on the process to go live, you don’t want anything to halt its momentum.
Legal problems and breaches of regulations could be issues that keep your dream of profits in the cloud. We touch on the critical rules to learn to avoid those hurdles and increase your chance of monetising your work.
This guide discusses government regulations for apps, which includes:
- Privacy policies
- Intellectual property
- Advertising standards
- App store arrangements
- Moderate user content
Government regulations for apps:
One of the essential government regulations for apps is the Data Protection Act 2018, which controls how you use your user’s information.
You must use public personal data in a way that is:
- Fair, lawful and transparent.
- Specified for a purpose.
- Only limited to necessary action.
- Accurate and up to date.
- Secure and protected against unlawful breaches, loss or destruction.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can take action with fines or criminal convictions if you don’t follow the data law.
More sensitive information is protected further so that breaches could face stricter punishment. Those types of data include:
- Political leaning
- Trade union membership
- Sexual orientation
To ensure you comply with the Data Protection Act, you can make your users aware of the information you’ll collect through an agreement. Before they provide their data, you can present Terms and Conditions for them to sign.
These can include your disclosure on how:
- You’ll use data.
- Users can access it.
- Users can ask to delete it.
Development is a competitive industry, which means that other key government regulations for apps are intellectual property protections.
You must follow the UK government process to protect your work and avoid infringing on others’ property.
If your app does something unique, you should apply for a patent. It will ensure that you own the right to that functionality. Your design for the software will have protection from any competitors.
Similarly, suppose your app is too close to another which holds a specific patent. In that case, you could face legal action from that developer.
Your application may have a unique interface with the shapes, patterns or colours you use. You may be able to register those designs to stop other developers’ apps from looking like yours.
Another critical component of your app could be your branding, which builds recognition with the public. So, you can trademark names, logos or jingles.
Lastly, if you create content on the app, you may protect it with a copyright. This protection covers:
- Recorded sounds
One popular way to make money through applications is by allowing advertising on your platforms.
The independent regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), enforces some key marketing government regulations for apps.
As a platform that allows advertising, the ASA could tell you to remove particular material which breaches the law or be responsible to regulate it.
For the content of advertising to be lawful, it must be:
- Truthful — can’t mislead consumers.
- Accurate — to the product or service it promotes.
- Socially responsible — it must not encourage illegal or anti-social behaviour.
Many developers offer in-app purchases within their software. There is specific guidance from the ASA to follow for these:
- Clarity — consumers must be made aware of how much they spend.
- Warning — tell consumers that there are in-app purchases before downloading it.
- Ads for purchases — you must specify which content relies on extra purchases in advertising.
App store agreements
App stores themselves have the legal right to remove your applications if they breach their agreements, even if they aren’t included in government regulations.
The primary app stores have their key agreements for you to follow:
- Apple — Apple Developer Program Licence Agreement.
- Google — Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement.
Apple requires you to follow their platform-specific guidelines before submitting an app for approval. These include:
- Testing — you must test the app for crashes or bugs.
- Information — you need your app data to be complete and accurate.
- Contact — you should be available to speak to app reviewers.
- Demo — you can provide a demo account for the reviewers to use.
- Features — you have to outline every element of the app.
Google has guidelines to follow before you submit an app to them. These include:
- Restrictions — don’t break laws or engage in damaging practices (e.g. child endangerment).
- Impersonation — don’t pretend to be others through your app as it misleads consumers.
- Malware –– doesn’t contain any code that could put a user’s data or device at risk.
You’ll likely use both platforms to launch your app, so it’s essential to understand that they might have different priorities in their agreements.
An app that can comply with both will keep the user’s experience consistent regardless of the device they use.
Moderate user content
If you allow users to post content through your app, you should consider the Online Safety Bill. The law is still in the process of passing in parliament, but its impact could be crucial to your software.
It could make it a criminal offence to:
- Distribute misinformation knowingly.
- Allow content that encourages self-harm.
- ‘Cyber-flash’, which is to share unwanted naked images.
- Send deliberate flashing content to those with epilepsy.
The UK government is exploring the option of criminal convictions for those within tech companies who allow harmful content. To keep ahead of this, you should build a way to moderate user content before launching.
Download Countingup to manage your development costs
Regulations to follow could add to the costs you need to continue with your app development. It’s crucial to manage those and keep on top of your money.
Countingup is a business account with built-in accounting software, making financial management simple. You can benefit from features like expense categorisation through the app, automatically sorting your costs.
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