From EU to Apple, Google: free gaming apps? Yes indeed



Apple and Google will be among the organizations speaking to the EU this week about the impact of “freemium” apps on the industry.

In a statement on Thursday, the EU’s European Commission said it wanted to investigate in-app purchases of free downloadable games. The Commission argues that while games can be downloaded for free, they are essentially forcing customers to pay for add-ons that bring functionality to the title, and this contradicts the idea of ​​truly playing a game “for free”.

So-called “freemium” games and applications have become increasingly popular in mobile markets. The titles are free to download, but come with a wide range of in-app purchases that help the developer, who may have spent thousands of dollars developing the title, earn a return on that investment.

According to the EC, a big problem with “free” games and apps is that they often target children, who then spend money buying game downloads.

To start putting things right, the EC says it will meet with several consumer watchdog organizations across the EU. Apple, Google and other companies involved in app distribution will also be asked to comment on the topic.

Apple certainly has some experience with this. Last month, it reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission that requires it to reimburse consumers at least $32 million for in-app purchases made by children. In this case, the problem was not the additional costs of “freemium” per se, but rather the ability of children to make in-app purchases without parental consent.

When the European talks take place on Thursday and Friday, the EC will specifically say that free games “should not mislead consumers about true costs” and “must not contain direct exhortations to children to purchase items”. The Commission also wants the industry to stop automatically charging stored credit cards and for developers to provide a contact email address in case of user complaints.

However, the EC was quick to note that no action has yet been taken and it does not know at this time whether it will move forward to compel companies to comply with these standards.


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