Seniors apply for a free box of eggs through Taobao, an online shopping platform, in Shanghai. The activity was initiated by Taobao and local supermarkets to attract the elderly to engage in online shopping. [Photo by NIU JING/FOR China DAILY]

A recent study by the Shanghai Consumer Council found that 58 percent of 600 smartphone apps come with commercial advertisements, 69.7 percent of which cannot be easily switched off.

In fact, only 14.5 percent of the apps allow users to totally switch off advertisements with a simple tap.

That goes to show how some apps love to push advertisements for which brands pay them handsomely.

Some smartphone manufacturers actually sell their gadgets cheap, depending wholly on the pre-installed apps that push advertisements to make profits. It’s a vicious circle, as pre-installed apps lower the smartphone’s price, enabling the manufacturers to capture the market.

To ensure that smartphone users browse more ads, most smartphone manufacturers have done away with the option of turning off the advertisements. The longer an advertisement stays on a user’s screen, the greater the possibility of him or her tapping on it and the manufacturer making money. However, this method violates the advertisement law, which makes it amply clear that users should have the option to shut down the advertisements through a prominently displayed “close” button.

Those breaking this clause are slapped fines ranging from 5,000 yuan ($774.34) to 30,000 yuan, which is peanuts when compared to the millions advertisement companies make.

Besides, in order to ensure that consumers tap on more advertisements, some apps “steal” consumer information to know more about their purchasing habits, thus violating their privacy.

Since 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has been cracking down on illegal apps. Of the 620,000 apps that were tested, 2,234 had to make amends while 132 others were suspended.

However, for better results, it is necessary for the monitoring system to strengthen legal provisions and enforce them. For example, the penalty for such forceful advertisements should be raised so that fewer app developers violate the laws for fear of paying huge fines.