We all have downloaded games which look good, and yes, they were in the free section of the Play store, but are actually, technically not free, since they offer in-app purchases, which may hinder you from progressing with the games unless you buy a certain amount of “coins” or “currency”, if you’re an adult, you can decide whether to purchase or not, but when its your younger brother, sister, son or daughter, they might just go right ahead with the purchases and rack up quite a bill on their parents credit card.
Google has therefore agreed to add an extra layer of protection in around games in-app purchases, which might mislead children into buying them.The request came from the EC which had been keeping tabs on issues dealing with unwanted app purchases.The EC set up a series of guidelines which will guide app developers and app stores alike.
This is the very first enforcement action of its kind in which the European Commission and national authorities joined forces. I am happy to see that it is delivering tangible results. This is significant for consumers. 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. It has demonstrated that cooperation pays off and helps to improve the protection of consumers in all Member States.”
– Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for Consumer Policy
Major app store owners like Apple have also agreed to the changes requested by the EC. Some of the highlights of the EC press release are as stated below:
- 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.
Therefore in summation,apart from labeling games as “free” when they contain in-app purchases, Google will provide guidelines aimed at its developers,also telling them not to promote apps and in-app purchases directly to children.The changes,supposedly will take effect by the end of September.
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. -EC vice president Neelie Kroes
It is not yet clear whether Google will make changes in other regions as well,or whether this will be an EU specific enforcement.