European Comission meets with Apple and Google to end misleading in-app purchases
On 27 and 28 February, the EuropeanComission is meeting with national authorities and largetechnological companies (including Apple and Google) to discussin-app purchases. The EC estimates that, at present, over 50% of theEU online and mobile games market consists of games advertised as“free”, although they often entail, sometimes costly, in-apppurchases. Often consumers are not fully aware that they are spendingmoney, because their credit cards get charged by default. This makeschildren particularly vulnerable to marketing of "free todownload" games which are, however, not "free to play".
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Redingcommented: "Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong businessmodel, and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumerprotection. The European Commission will expect very concrete answersfrom the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and nationalconsumer organizations." Commissioner Neven Mimica considersthese conditions dangerous both for consumers and the credibility ofEurope's app economy, a “very promising market”. She believesthat coming up with "concrete solutions" after thediscussion will be a "win-win for all."
A document containing the commonpositions of the Consumer Protection Cooperation and EC membercountries gives more insight on the eventual restrictions. Theyresonate with an earlier initiative from this year by Britain'sOffice Of Fair Trading. The CPC proposes: usage of the word "free"only in games that are free in their entirety; elimination ofcoercive expressions, such as "buy now!" or "upgradenow!"; forbidding purchases to be made without the consumer'sexplicit consent; and providing consumers with the trader's e-mail addressfor queries.
The meetings are an opportunity for theCommission and Member State authorities to reach a commonunderstanding with the industry to address these concerns. In anycase, however, the European Commission and relevant enforcementauthorities will follow up regulation breaches with the necessaryaction.