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

July 18, 2014
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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.-

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