European regulators have increased their scrutiny of large and prominent technology companies like Google and Apple. Recently, the EC was focused on the way the companies market free-to-play games in their respective app stores on smartphones and tablets. The Consumer Protection Cooperation Network of Europe wanted the companies to be upfront about the games that required in-app purchases and not to mislead customers by advertising them as free. It was required that the companies not offer games that encouraged children to purchase stuff and to disclose payment arrangements upfront. Also, email addresses were to be provided for resolving customer complaints and queries.
Google has taken the first step and agreed to make a major change to the way applications are labeled in its Android PlayStore. According to this agreement, all applications that have in-app purchases (IAPs) will no longer be classified as free. A few years back, when the process of IAPs was implemented by Apple Inc., some issues had started to surface. People weren’t happy to realize that a game that they had installed for free required them to pay in order to be used. Therefore, it became utterly common for kids to rack up huge bills by making in-app purchases as there was lack of parental control.
IAPs were added to the Android platform shortly after Apple and Google encountered some of the same issues. The problem has only deteriorated as games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga remain on top of the free game charts. This is because these games are free only in a basic way and force people into spending money for getting away from the restrictions that are involved in free-gameplay. Therefore, attaching a free label on these games is nothing short of misleading for people.
Google has agreed to compromise and the company will no longer label apps as free if in-app purchases are required by them. This change will come into effect in September and will occur in Europe, but it is likely that this will also have an impact on the users of other countries as well. Apart from that, Google has also agreed to monitor any breaches that occur concerning EU consumer laws. The European Commission announced that Google will change its default settings in a way that before every in-app purchase, payments will need to be authorized unless the settings are actively modified by the consumer. Google also made a statement outlining that it had been working with the European Commission for improving Google Play to benefit users and protect children.
As far as Apple is concerned, no such commitment has been made by the iPhone maker as yet, as per the information provided by the EC. It said that Apple had proposed to attend to this problem, but hasn’t made any move to do so. Apple, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the current system doesn’t need any changing because it has implemented strict parental controls on its App Store for managing IAPs.