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EU authorities take tech giants to task over misleading F2P apps

EU authorities take tech giants to task over misleading F2P apps

February 27, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

The European Commission is meeting today and tomorrow with European Union law enforcement authorities and tech companies like Apple and Google to hammer out better consumer protection standards for mobile apps distributed on their platforms.

During the meetings, representatives from the UK, France, Belgium, Denmark, and other EU members are expected to hammer out a common set of enforceable rules governing how and when apps can ask for payment information.

On the other side of the table will be representatives from Apple, Google, and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, which represents companies like Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Electronic Arts.

A statement issued by the Commission today claims that these meetings are a direct result of citizens across Europe complaining about misleading or exploitatitve in-app purchasing systems.

"Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection," European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding stated in a press release announcing the meetings. "The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organizations."

During the meetings the Commission intends to work out regulations that prevent games from directly urging children to purchase in-game items or persuade an adult to purchase in-game items for them, require app makers to provide a valid email address that can be used to contact them in case of complaints, and prevent apps from automatically charging a player's credit card or other payment system without the player's express consent.

It's worth pointing out that last month the UK's consumer protection group, the Office of Fair Trading, ordered the online games industry to "get its house in order" by April or risk enforcement action. That threat hasn't come due yet, but the OFT will be taking part in the meetings today and tomorrow.

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