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Monday, July 21, 2014

Google will stop calling games 'free' if they offer in-app purchases

The European Commission says Google has agreed to change its policies in response to EC proposals about mobile gaming and in-app purchases.

In December 2013, the EC said games advertised as ‘free’ shouldn’t mislead consumers about the true costs. It also said consumers “should be adequately informed” about payment arrangements and shouldn’t be charged without giving explicit consent.

Apple, Google and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe were asked to provide concrete solutions to the concerns raised.

According to a recent EC statement, Google has decided on a number of changes that’ll be in place by the end of September. These include not using the word ‘free’ when games contain in-app purchases, developing guidelines for app developers and introducing measures to help monitor apparent breaches of EU consumer laws. It has also adapted its default settings so that payments are authorised before every in-app purchase unless a consumer changes these settings.

The EC also notes that “no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorisation” although Apple has proposed to address those concerns. It says EU Consumer Protection Cooperation authorities “will continue to engage with Apple to ensure that it provides specific details of changes required and put its practices into line with the common position”.

Neelie Kroes, EC Vice President responsible for the Digital Agenda, said “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.”

Any enforcement or other legal action is the responsibility of national authorities. Earlier this year, the UK’s Office of Fair Trading introduced new principles for game developers to help ensure their games didn’t break the law.

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