EU Commission On In-App Purchase Remedies: Bad Apple, Good Google

Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is facing renewed criticism from the European Commission over its slow response to consumer-protection concerns that the group raised with the company regarding its in-app purchase policies. As noted in the European Commission’s press release, European Union member countries teamed up with the commission to improve protections for consumers after a growing number of complaints from around Europe about misleading “freemium” apps that resulted in unintended in-app purchases. The marketing of in-app items to children was a particular concern for the commission, since many of the consumer complaints involved unauthorized charges made by children on a parent’s credit card.

European Commission asked Apple, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), and relevant trade organizations to find solutions to four major consumer-protection concerns that it had. The European Commission asked that “[1] Games advertised as ‘free’ should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved; [2] Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them; [3] Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent; [4] Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.”

According to the European Commission, Google has already provided a list of the changes that it will make in response to the commission’s concerns, and implementation is already underway. Google’s in-app purchase policy changes include not using the word “free” to describe games with in-app purchase options, developing guidelines for app developers to prevent direct exhortation to children, and an improved system for tracking violations of EU consumer laws. Google also modified the default settings for its apps so that every in-app purchase must be individually authorized unless a consumer decides to change the settings.