Games with in-app purchases won’t be called “free” from this fall

by: Bogdan PetrovanJuly 18, 2014

Google Play Store in app purchases iap

Games in the Play Store that feature in-app purchases (IAPs) won’t be labeled as free anymore, as part of a set of measures that Google agreed to implement at the request of European authorities.

Last year the European Commission asked Google and Apple to find ways to protect consumers, and in particular children, from raking up inadvertent in-app purchase charges. Now the Commission announced that Google will make several changes to the Play Store by the end of September 2014, including:

  • The word “free” won’t be used at all when it comes to games with IAPs
  • Google will develop guidelines for developers to “prevent direct exhortation to children as defined under EU law”
  • “time-framed measures to help monitor apparent breaches of EU consumer laws”

These changes are already on the way at Google, said the EC in a statement today.

Earlier this year, Google introduced the option to password protect every in-app purchase, and added indicators for apps that use IAPs to the Play Store app and web version.

In the same statement, the Commission criticized Apple for not coming forward with a set of similar measures, though the Cupertino company has promised to tackle the issue.

Google, Apple, and Amazon have repeatedly come under legal fire over in-app purchases, both from consumers who were unhappy with the huge bills they had to pay due to lax protections and from regulators in the US and other countries.

Back in March, a woman sued Google over the $70 worth of virtual currency that her 5-year-old bought in Marvel’s Run Jump Smash, while the FTC recently sued Amazon for not doing enough to protect consumers against IAP bill shock. The FTC also asked Apple to refund millions of dollars to users over the same issue.

It’s not clear yet if Google will enforce these measures worldwide or only within the EU. We will update this post with new information when we learn more details.-

  • gegeaouo


  • monkey god

    What’s it going to be called then? “Free-ish”?

    • Japzone

      Freemium, Free to “try”, Free to lose, Gate Taxers, Trolls, Tolls, Bouncers?

  • Mosor W. Vlad

    Free to try ? it just came out of my …..

  • Colts5609

    I don’t play F2P games anymore, so I don’t play about 90% of the games in the Play store. Just cannot support the freemium model, whether it be PC, Android, iOS, Xbox, etc. Give me a game with everything for a set price, such as “The Room I & II”, “Leo’s Fortune”, “Sonic”, etc. I know opinions vary greatly around this topic, but F2P is the bane of the game industry IMO.

    • Anonymous

      There are games that are truly free. For example Crafters of War, small indie game, constantly being developed, it has no ads and has a great gameplay.

  • Martin Ferrari

    Yes!! +1 to this!

  • Anothermuse

    It’s needed, but gotta think this will take a big bite out of app income.

  • Матт Реякіпѕ

    I commend Google for doing this with iAPs. Because we all know a kid’s mindset. They see free and instantly download the app/game without a second thought. Then when playing a game, a time limited offer comes by and they will panic and accept the iAP or see someone ahead of them and use iAPs without even realizing the total cost they’re spending. Apple is doing their own form of crowd control with iAPs by introducing their “sharing” feature in iOS 8. What it does is allow multiple people to use an account but only one person can download anything. When someone else tries to download something, the main account will be notified immediately and the app/game won’t download and no iAP’s can be made until the main account hits the OK/Allow button. I myself would never recommend Android to anyone with kids. Android is the most dangerous mobile OS in the world and not because it’s the most used. Google needs to make Android safer by making it harder to install apps/games from third party sources and they need to stop pre-approving apps for Google Play. It’s the whole Google removes apps after someone gets infected is my issue with Android. And most Android users don’t know how to tell when their infected (I hear so many sales people lie and say Android doesn’t need AV that it’s merely a gimmick) or how to remove the malware/virus when AV fails. iOS is by no means perfect but 10 million malware apps vs 1000 says it all. But all that said this iAP thing is a step in the right direction for Google and Android.

  • Bob Reilley

    I agree with the measures that are being put in place but they aren’t really needed. The problem is parents use phones and tablets as babysitters, then when they get the bill for the babysitter they are shocked.