EU demanding ‘concrete answers’ from Apple and Google regarding in-app purchasing concerns

By , Feb 27, 2014

In-app game purchase

Reuters is reporting that The European Commission has invited Apple and Google to discuss a flurry of user complaints surrounding in-app purchases. The move follows numerous media reports that center on disgruntled parents who were shocked to find that their children racked up vast credit card bills by making content purchases in free-to-play games.

The Commission is arguing that it’s Apple’s and Google’s responsibility not to misleading consumers. The Commission also called upon greedy app creators to provide “very concrete answers” in respect to in-app purchasing concerns…

Reuters quotes EU’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding:

Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection.

The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organizations.

According to the report, customers in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium spent an estimated 16.5 billion euros, or about $22.5 billion, on online games in 2011 alone.

Among the proposals to be discussed are clearer explanations in games about the costs involved, removing inducements to make purchases such as “Buy now!” and “Upgrade now!” and preventing payments being debited without explicit consent.

The meeting will also discuss whether companies should provide an email address that allows consumers to contact them immediately with any queries or complaints.

Apple recently agreed to refund U.S. users over unwanted in-app purchases.

The move followed an FTC settlement which required the firm to alter how it bills consumers to ensure that it has obtained “express, informed consent from consumers before charging them for items sold in mobile apps”.

Both Apple and Google are guilty as charged.

The two respective technology giants years ago launched in-app purchasing as a way of giving app developers the power to monetize users by selling virtual items in apps. The problem is, neither party would initially place restrictions on the system nor would they make it possible to turn in-app purchasing off.

Their loose rules have allowed app makers to take advantage of the children. Let’s be honest here, parents are uninformed and mostly unaware that the freemium model comes with quite a few strings attached.

Following a string of negative publicity, Apple introduced a new iOS Restrictions switch to disable in-app purchases altogether. It also posted a special App Store section detailing the feature, added a warning to freemium apps about in-app purchases and put into effect a 15-minute password cut off period after which a user must provide his or her Apple ID again to make subsequent in-app purchases.

Have you or anyone in your family become a victim of excessive in-app purchasing?

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  • http://www.sk1wbw.wordpress.com/ Wayne Williams

    What’s the problem here? It’s called personal responsibility. Don’t expect companies to be responsible for YOUR actions, or lack thereof. You bought it, you own it.

    • Aden Bauer

      Yeah, responsibility does fall on the parents, but games like candy crush, and various others (see iPhone Garbage on youtube) straight up exploit the IAP service. 5 lives for $1? One more move for $1? Stupidly overpowered power-ups for $1? Come on. It’s bullshit, and it needs to stop. This is not what IAPs, or any game for that matter, should be.

      • http://www.sk1wbw.wordpress.com/ Wayne Williams

        That’s exactly what IAP is. But should the parents delete the app so it can’t be done, or should the parents place all the blame on Apple? Once again, personal responsibility.

      • Aden Bauer

        Lol. I know thats what IAP is, and I’m saying its abused by some (cough king cough) developers. It’s not Apples fault this happens but they could put better methods to stop this kind of thing happening (kid picks up parents iPad, plays game, in a matter of minutes the parents have a credit card bill of $100+).

      • http://www.sk1wbw.wordpress.com/ Wayne Williams

        So it still sounds like it’s Apple’s fault that the kid uses the parents’ iPad? Pass code lock, maybe? That’s a feature that is there to help prevent unauthorized users from using your stuff.

      • felixtaf

        Or even use restrictions for IAP. It wasnt available before but its available now. So why not restrict them. Instead sue the companies for your responsibilities. App Store even has a dedicated section (now) to explain about IAP.

    • mav3rick

      Are you really sure you really “own” your iDevice? Did you read the their terms? Did you try to do really whatever you want with an iDevice? Other than spending in the App Store?

      • http://www.sk1wbw.wordpress.com/ Wayne Williams

        Well, my pappy used to always say that possession is 9/10ths of the law. If it’s in my hand, in my house, I own it. What is Verizon going to do, send their smartphone SWAT team to take it back?

      • mav3rick

        Will all respect for an old man saying, this maybe can be true for hardware. Back in those days there was no such thing as software. With software, user can do only that much the developer wants him to do. The string developer is keeping the user attached with as long he is using its product. You might keep the device in hand, but user cannot “own” the software. SWAT has no use in this case. They’re called different…

  • Framboogle

    Has no one heard of LocalIAPStore? Or iAPCracker?

  • amazingrugs

    Solution #1 – Set the restriction for in app purchases on the phone.

    Solution #2 – Don’t give your iTunes account password to your kids. Don’t allow them to use the device 15 minutes after entering the password if you do happen to download an app for them.

    Solution #3 – Maybe Apple puts in an option so the user can create a separate password for buying an in app purchase.

    Parents are being lazy here. Do some research.

  • @dongiuj

    Discipline your child!

  • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

    “Let’s be honest here, parents are uninformed and mostly unaware that the freemium model comes with quite a few strings attached.”

    Exactly! The moral solution here is to disable IAP by default and reuire confirmation by e-mail to turn it on…but noo…that’s locking out big profit for capitalists.

  • marshall

    well, to be honest just read over all of your comments.
    it’s a controversial issue sounds like.
    But i’ve to agree about that companies should stop doing theirs buy it now auction.
    Because (unfortunately) in the 21 century it’s so evident that the 0-6 years kiddos playing on parents iPad iPhone or being accurate smart-staffs!
    As Far they are kiddos and they don’t really understand what they are doing thats why you simply can’t blame on the kids!!(!!!)
    Of Course what about parents, they are hard working they are happy when they could play with their kids than have a rest.

    for those whose are older like 14-90y. which is a quiet big range of group it’s their OWN RESPONSIBILITY wether to buy or not!

    i used to play with Simpsons Tapped Out (what is about this purchase in stuff basically) but never ever bought any donuts or as it’s aforementioned power ups.
    i just shut down.
    OR
    simply log out of that place where you can verify your details.
    if you don’t give the details you won’t be able to download/buy automatically these stuffs.

    P.S:.
    Oh, just a question i don’t want to be sooo personal. They have been charged..Apple and Google or which one where this penalty goes to?? those who has been suffered? OR to these politicians?! just a question..
    ; ),