In-App Purchase, a way overused feature which provides a way for supposedly free games and apps to ask users for cash in order to enable advanced features or unlock virtual items, is increasingly drawing ire of regulators across the globe.
In-App Purchases are notorious for fooling less-informed adults and kids into downloading so-called freemium apps so it’s no wonder the European Union officials have repeatedly warned that companies like Apple and Google should stop labeling free-to-download apps that contain In-App Purchases as “Free”.
Companies could soon be forced to make the “true cost of apps” unambiguously clear before purchase, according to a complaint the European Commission filed today…
BBC News reports that EU officials are angered by Apple’s silence on the matter and have formally objected that Apple hasn’t responded yet to its complaints nor has the company implemented the required changes in order to protect consumers from “free” downloads.
Furthermore, the EU Commission warned that national authorities had the option to take legal action against companies that were deemed not to be complying with Europe’s guidance on free apps requiring that the “true cost” of games be made clear.
The Commission wrote in a statement in respect to Apple:
Regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorization.
Reminding us that Apple has “proposed to address those concerns,” the Commission warns that “no firm commitment and no timing” have been provided for the implementation of such possible future changes.
Apple in its response (via Engadget) argues its privacy controls go “far beyond the features of others in the industry,” adding that upcoming iOS 8 features such as Ask to Buy will give parents even more control over what their kids can buy on the App Store.
Apple takes great pride in leading the industry in parental controls that are incredibly easy to use and help ensure a great experience for parents and children on the App Store. The parental controls in iOS are strong, intuitive and customizable. And over the last year we made sure any app which enables customers to make in-app purchases is clearly marked. We’ve also created a Kids Section on the App Store with even stronger protections to cover apps designed for children younger than 13.
These controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry. 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.
Our goal is to continue to provide the best experience for our customers and we will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns.
Interestingly enough, Google has already decided on a number of Play store changes due to come into force by September. Specifically, the Internet giant has agreed to stop calling games with in-app purchases free. It’ll also create targeted guidelines for games to prevent encouragement of children to buy items.
I’ve always hated In-App Purchases.
I have no doubt in my mind that Apple had good intentions conceiving In-App Purchases. The feature was supposed to address the lack of upgrade pricing for apps sold in the App Store.
Unfortunately, app developers (some, not all) took advantage of In-App Purchases at the expense of consumers, resulting with a situation where the In-App Purchase mechanism has been misappropriated to the point of travesty.