Europe Wants Apple and Google to Fix In-App Payments Problem
Many parents have learned the hard way that many mobile games that are initially free can quickly become expensive, because they may charge for extras while playing the game. Europe says it is pushing Apple and Google to be more upfront about the potential cost.
The European Commission on Friday said it had worked with national authorities to start an enforcement action, asking Apple and Google to stop misleading consumers with games labeled “free,” among other requests.
The commission criticized Apple for making no immediate changes to address the concerns. But it said that Google had made important changes — for instance, Google said it would stop labeling games “free” whenever a game offers in-app purchases.
“Although, regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorization, Apple has proposed to address those concerns,” the commission said in a statement. “However, no firm commitment and no timing have been provided for the implementation of such possible future changes.”
American regulators have also been cracking down on in-app payments. In January, the Federal Trade Commission said it had reached a settlement agreement with Apple that required the company to refund at least $32.5 million to customers whose children had made purchases without their consent. Last week, the trade commission filed a lawsuit against Amazon over misleading “free” apps in its app store.
In response to the European Commission’s action, Apple said in a statement that its parental controls for in-app payments were strong, easy to use and customizable. It also said that over the last year, it revised its App Store to include the label “In-App Purchases” for any free apps that allow people to buy things inside the apps. It also created a new section in the App Store with stronger protection for children under the age 13.
“These controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry,” Apple said in its statement. The company said it would continue to work with the European Commission to address concerns about in-app payments.
Apple last month announced that stronger parental controls would be part of the next version of its mobile operating system, iOS 8, scheduled for release this fall. It will include a feature called Ask to Buy, which will send an alert to a parent’s device asking for approval when a child tries to make a purchase on his or her iPhone.