Apple and Google remove apps amid Australian claims of fraud

Some 300 so-called binary trading applications removed from their online stores

A woman looks at the screen of her mobile phone in front of an Apple logo outside its store in Shanghai, China July 30, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Apple and Google have removed more than 300 so-called binary trading applications from their online stores after intervention by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic), according to an Asic statement on Tuesday.

The country’s securities regulator said it made the request to Apple and Google after numerous cases of fraud involving unlicensed operators of the apps, which encourage consumers to make bets on whether instruments such as shares or currencies will rise or fall. While some are legitimate operations, there has been an explosion in unlicensed products operating across borders and beyond the reach of regulators in recent years.

Some of the apps “make outrageous claims”, said Greg Yanco, the head of market integrity at Asic. “There is an issue globally with these products.”

An Australia-based spokeswoman for Apple pointed to its recently updated developer guidelines, which explicitly prohibit all new apps that facilitate binary options trading, but declined to comment further on its discussions with the Australian authorities.

“We remove applications that violate our policies. We don’t comment on individual applications," said an Australia-based spokesman for Google.

Asic cited cases where consumers are unable to withdraw cash from their accounts or make winning trades nine times out of 10 in the demonstration app, before losing everything once they switch to the live product. It said Apple has removed the apps from their online stores globally, although it did not specify if Google’s removal applies to just Australia or to its app stores around the world.

Of the 330 apps that have now been removed, 80 per cent had no warnings about the risks inherent in trading, Asic said.

* Bloomberg