Google (and Apple) representatives are having a sit-down with members of European Commission member states and the Consumer Protection Cooperation today to talk about apps. Specifically, the commission is asking some hard questions about in-app purchases following complaints from consumer protection groups in Denmark, Britain, and several other EU nations.


The issue revolves around the use of the term 'free' in the descriptions of games that push in-app purchases. The commission fears these listings could be misleading, especially to children. The commission has already issued a list of positions on the issue, which Google and Apple are being asked to respond to. Nothing is binding yet, but the position taken by the European Commission includes the requirement that apps only use the word free if they contain no IAPs, not even completely optional ones.

Clarifying the usage of the word 'free' is not a crazy idea, but some of the other items on the list may be indicative of a misunderstanding of how apps work. For example, the commission recommends contact info for the developer be available in the listing so consumers can contact them to ask about how IAPs are used in the app. Of course, app listings already have that. They also want to make sure IAPs require explicit user consent, which again, is already how things work.

Many of the complaints that spurred the investigation came as a result of kids racking up huge IAP bills in games. So the EU is also looking into restrictions on how IAPs can be presented in games designed to appeal to children – perhaps they'd be tucked away in a menu instead of pushed in popups constantly. This actually sounds like a fine idea.

[Pocket Gamer]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • xHabeasCorpusx

    Hells yes. I know here in America such actions are viewed as "socialism" but I think it's time they fix this. Just change the name to Premium Play or something.

    • Daniel Smith

      It's not socialism, but the EU has always been the Goddess of Regulation.

      • xHabeasCorpusx

        I know. The issue in America, anything that get's in the way of capitalism is considered socialism or communism. It's freaking annoying.

    • kekkojoker90

      premium play isn't possible in europe is a trademark of italian company LOL

    • Cerberus_tm

      In Europe, "socialist" and "liberal" are mainstream words, not niche or derogatory as across the pond.

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    About time someone did something about these bullshit IAPs

  • Thomas

    I wouldn't consider it as much a misunderstanding on how apps work more a question of time needed to prepare these type of cases, heck I'm not even sure Apple has explicit user consent for IAP's as I believe the default is still that the access is cached for 15 minutes.

    Even Google's password requirement is relatively new.

    • Roger Siegenthaler

      Well I can see the problem with game-blocking IAPs in something that says it's "free" when it's made for children. On the other hand, renaming it in the store pushes it a bit far imo, it punishes people that actually have IAPs that aren't annoying.

      • Gabernasher

        Don't call it free if it's not, why is that so hard?

        • Roger Siegenthaler

          Because it is free for you to play, if you want a head start you pay for example.

          Or the first map-pack is free, you pay for more maps... how does any of that make my app not-free.

          • Gabernasher

            Here's a free thing, to enjoy it you must pay, but it's free.

          • Roger Siegenthaler

            You can enjoy the first maps perfectly fine... it's your choice.

            False advertising is the problem here, and just giving more content or the removal of ads for an IAP isn't the same as not being a free app.

    • RyanWhitwam

      You still have to authorize each one on iOS. There is a popup.

      • Thomas

        There is a popup, but since everyone can press "Buy" to a popup, that is not explicit consent.

        You'll have to remember these cases are centered on people who maybe does something with their phone/tablet then hands it to someone else who can click the "Buy" button as there is no verification done to ensure it's the owner purchasing it or not.

        Google does it per default now, but allows it to be turned off, as I recall the default on iOS is password the first time, and then it caches it for 15 minutes, so within those 15 minutes it's not explicit consent when every purchase for the next 15 minutes require no authorization other than clicking "Buy".

  • http://www.youtube.com/crisr82 Kristian Ivanov

    "For example, the commission recommends contact info for the developer be
    available in the listing so consumers can contact them to ask about how
    IAPs are used in the app. Of course, app listings already have that."

    Not sure if I originally misunderstood them, but weren't they referring to what is essentially a list where you can check everything you can buy in the app with it's price? If that's the case, Google Play doesn't have it as far as I know (please correct me if I'm wrong, that would be really good to know)

    • RyanWhitwam

      I don't think that's what they said. It's contact info. Maybe that's another point that wasn't reported widely, but I doubt it.

      • http://www.youtube.com/crisr82 Kristian Ivanov

        Oh. Well, hope something good comes out of this meeting [for us consumers that is]

      • PhilNelwyn

        Your source doesn't say "contact info" though, it says: "[...]a prominent email address displayed on their app store page so consumers can contact the developer or publisher directly[...]"
        That's not always the case, and those who have an email address don't necessarily display it for all their apps (at least here, in Europe).

        • RyanWhitwam

          I fail to see how that is any different.

          • PhilNelwyn

            To me, "contact info" is pretty vague...
            Yeah, almost every game has at least a link to a website where you can contact the developer, but some don't have an actual email address.
            It happened to me not to able to contact a developer about a purchase, so I think that they have a point: an email address should be mandatory, and that is not the case right now.

          • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

            It's really simple: an app that shows a phone number in its app description would not comply with the rule, an app that shows an email address would comply. How is that difficult to understand unless you're being deliberately obtuse?

  • Adrian Meredith

    I hope they ban $99 for virtual currency. Its a fucking disgrace

    • Ricardo Neves

      Paying to gain an unfair advantage on leaderboards should be banned altogether. Even paying 20$ in a mobile game is ridiculous...

  • markgbe

    EU commission really has nothing important to do huh... lol, go socialism

    • kabloink

      Consumer protection is important.

    • Daniel Smith

      I'm confused what this has to do with socialism? Do you even know what socialism is?

      • Glasshole

        Some people think that so long as you can make a buck, its people's responsibility to ensure they are not buying in app purchases. i.e. If your child bought the IAPS and racked up a huge bill, well, it was your fault for not paying attention. There is an argument to be made for people taking responsibility for their actions. However, Markgbe seems to be in the far end of the spectrum, for which any type of government regulation that gets in the way of the "free market" = socialism.

        For example, the position above, does not consider various factors, particularly where the EU in this case, is asking app developers to make it clear that there are IAPs in their games, restricting the word free to games which do not use any. I mean, after all, IAPs require real currency, and no one is hurt by making that explicitly clear in an app. I mean, people who want to pay real currency to advance in a game, will always pay. The issue here is with children, young adults whose parents may not understand the new technology and how freemium games work. For example, a while back someone on reddit posted an FYI to everyone that after you buy something on Google Play, you don't have to enter your password to buy another item, if it is done within 15 minutes of the 1st purchase. Imagine a parent allowing their kid to purchase 1, $0.99 pack of something in game, then comes back 10 minutes later, and realizes that their original authorization was used to buy $99 worth of items because they happened within that 15 min. window.

    • Marcell Lévai

      I doubt you know what socialism means. This has nothing to do with it, fyi.

    • lol

      Dumb American. Go to school.

      • markgbe

        Clearly a socialist who needs the govt teat.

    • asdfqw

      Damn straight. The bloody European commies wont even let the corporations put toxins in their drinking water. SHAME!

      • markgbe

        There are pros to 100% control.

    • Gabernasher

      Go capitalism, raped everyones retirement fund in 08, good ol capitalism.

    • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

      Haha you don't know what socialism is.

  • Marcell Lévai

    Hmm... Paymium anyone?

  • Fundy fish

    Bummer, I know free to play are annoying but know one is forcing you to pay and if some idiot wants to spend 99 bucks on a freemium mobile game good, that money would be better off with some else

  • hoosiercub88

    I don't know where this has any legal standing, but... I do agree that IAP/Microtransactions being so fervently adopted in the game world.. to the point that mainstream console games have them now, is a pretty big bummer. Yes you can play most of these Freemiums without ever having to spend a dime. You're not going to have as much fun when you have to way 3 days to get to the next section of the world.

  • Clara

    Nice. Maybe I can use those to promote my app.
    I can put the following on my app description:
    "With regard to European Commission and Consumer Protection Cooperation, this app is FREE and does NOT contain any In-App Purchase"

  • taz89

    Let's hope some good comes out of this, how some iap are more expensive than a ps4 or xbox one game is beyond me. The fact that they are saying in that image that the 100 dollar coin pack is a deal says it all. Games today not only have this horrible iap but ads too. Before it use to be one or the other. These "free" games are just getting worse, from banner ads, pop up ads or video ads it's a rubbish experience. The fact that most these games don't even let you pay for the game is a joke. If there was a iap to basically get rid of the fremium model would be nice

  • firesoul453

    PVSZ2 was a massive dissapointment

    • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

      Couldn't agree more.

  • thartist

    Problem with this law is that it wants to put everything in the same bag, but there are truly , completely free games with valid ENTIRELY OPTIONAL IAPs that work pretty much as supportive donations and shouldn't be called 'non free'. They actually are and they don't scam you with wait times or barriers of any dubious kind, so it's seriously unfair to those respectable developers that actually gave a f*ck about NOT screwing their audience.

    • Gabernasher

      Please explain what law you are referring to. I'd like to see what the law is called, when it was enacted. If you can't, shut the fuck up as you're talking out of your ass.

      • Roger Siegenthaler

        The one being proposed here... known as the consumer protection act, being acted upon by the european commision...

        • Gabernasher

          There is no law, it's simply sitting down with Apple and Google to try to bring better language before they feel the need to make any new laws.

  • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

    "For example, the commission recommends contact info for the developer be available in the listing so consumers can contact them to ask about how IAPs are used in the app. Of course, app listings already have that. They also want to make sure IAPs require explicit user consent, which again, is already how things work."

    I think you've missed the point here. They're changing this from something Apple/Google are doing willingly into an actual requirement - it may just be symbolic in this particular case, with these particular retailers but it's an important requirement.

    • Roger Siegenthaler

      I think they also want to pave a way for them to force apple/google to remove apps that are deemed "unsafe" (for lack of a better word).