Google to stop calling games with in-app purchases ‘free’

Google assured the European Union that it will no longer list games with in-app purchases as “free” on the Google Play Store, by the end of September. Google’s new policy comes after a flurry of lawsuits and complaints from irate customers and parents over expensive in-app purchases.

On Friday, the EU issued a report, detailing all the rules it would like app developers and app stores to follow, in regard to in-app purchases. The guide, which was sent to Apple and Google, recommends the following policies:

  • 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.

Google promptly agreed to stop listing games with in-app purchases as free in the Play Store and said that verification will be required for every purchase. The company did not specify whether the new policy applied to all countries where the Play Store is available, or only in European Union countries.

Meanwhile, the EU accused Apple of dilly dallying on updating its in-app purchase policy.

“Regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorization,” the organization said in a statement. “Apple has proposed to address those concerns. However, no firm commitment and no timing have been provided for the implementation of such possible future changes.”

Apple defended itself in a statement made to the BBC, where it claimed that it’s doing “more than others” to rectify its wrongs when it comes to in-app purchases.

“These controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry,” a spokesman told the BBC. “But we are always working to strengthen the protections we have in place, and we’re adding great new features with iOS 8, such as Ask to Buy, giving parents even more control over what their kids can buy on the App Store.”

Apple did not offer any specifics about its new policies, nor did it say that it will stop listing games with in-app purchases as free in the App Store. In January, Apple introduced a way to turn off in-app purchases for iOS 7 users.

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