Thousands of smartphone users with children have complained that it’s too easy for kids to play mobile games and then inadvertently charge a credit card with numerous purchases of new levels, new characters, and other in-app upgrades offered by free games. The European Commission last year requested that Google, operator of the Play Store, and rival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which runs the iOS App Store, change how these games are marketed to consumers.
A Friday statement released by the European Commission said that Google will be making “a number of changes” to how it represents games that offer in-app purchases to consumers. The Play Store will not use the word “free” in connection with such mobile games, which are free to download but offer paid upgrades within the game. Google will also revise guidelines to prevent app developers from marketing games to children, and will change the Play Store’s default settings to require that payment is authorized before every in-app purchase unless the user changes the settings.
The changes will be implemented by the end of September. The European Commission had expressed concern over the ways that Google and Apple represent freemium apps and games that offer in app-purchases — purchases which the Commission acknowledges as “a legitimate business model.” In December, the Commission made several requests of Apple, Google, and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe.