The European Commission today released the findings
of an investigation into in-app purchases in mobile and online games, stating that better protection is required for consumers, particularly children.
The EU is working alongside national authorities in a joint effort to make sure that games and apps with in-app purchases are marketed to consumers in an appropriate manner.
In particular, the EU says that it has communicated the following rules to Apple, Google, and other app store owners:
- Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved
- Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them
- Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent
- Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints
As a direct result, Google has decided to make a number of changes to its Google Play store, and implementation is currently underway to fulfil these requirements. The company says it should be compliant by the end of September 2014.
However, the EU says that "no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorisation."
The EU says that it will continue to engage with Apple, in the hope of making specific changes to its App Store in the near future.
Neelie Kroes, the vice president responsible for the Digital Agenda, noted, "The Commission is very supportive of innovation in the app sector. In-app purchases are a legitimate business model, but it's essential for app-makers to understand and respect EU law while they develop these new business models".
And Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for Consumer Policy, added that, "In particular, children must be better protected when playing online. The action also provides invaluable experience for the ongoing reflection on how to most effectively organise the enforcement of consumer rights in the Union."
UK trade body TIGA commended the EU for this latest response, and added that it hopes EU and UK policy makers will secure a common global approach to in-app purchases.