Apple, Google face scrutiny over in-app purchases

Apple, Google face scrutiny over in-app purchases

Summary: The two tech giants have been "invited" to discuss in-app purchase transparency with the European Commission.

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TOPICS: Apple, Apps, Google
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Apple and Google have been invited to meet with EU representatives as the organization tries to tackle the problem of wholesale in-app purchases by adults and children.

Concerns raised by consumer groups in the U.K., Denmark Italy and Belgium have prompted the European Commission to hold talks with companies within the industry, policymakers and consumer protection authorities, according to Reuters.

Once the talks have reached a conclusion, the European Commission may consider clearer guidelines and regulations.

The main problem appears to be language use by developers when the apps are posted within the iOS app or Play stores. While many games are "free to download," they are not necessarily "free to play" -- and when purchases are automatically taken off linked cards and hidden costs come to light, this can result in a nasty shock for unwitting parents who have given their children access to smartphones or tablets. In addition, this can be considered misleading advertising.

In one example, an 8-year-old British girl ran up a bill of $6,700 making in-app purchases through games including My Horse. While Apple reimbursed the family, protection is needed to keep such mistakes from occurring in the first place.

The EU's justice commissioner, Viviane Reding commented:

"Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection. The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organizations."

According to the European Commission, over half of online games in the E.U. are displayed as free, yet carry hidden charges. The market for online games is expected to be worth $86 billion within the next five years, and users in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium spent an estimated 16.5 billion euros on online games in 2011, according to the Commission.

Topics: Apple, Apps, Google

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7 comments
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  • Why credit cards?

    All the parents I know, who have bought tablets, iPods or phones for their children do not put a credit card against the account. The kids have to buy gift cards from the local supermarket with their pocket money and load up their account that way.

    That means that they can't run up hundreds or thousands of Euros, only the 10 or 20 Euros they load into the account.
    wright_is
    • really..... Just how woukd a 6 year old get an Apple ID?

      So how would my kids do that when you can't get a usable apple ID as it's tied to their date of birth. Mine are registered as 20 years plus their real age to get the account working, but I keep the password to myself. For obvious reasons. Some folk mag question why they need their own ID; in my case it less us all have our own profile and when they get older it's all theirs.

      Let's STOP making crazy excuses for the practice. I've been caught out once only thankfully. The apps are worded in such a way to diffuse any reference to hard cash. It's a scam that has earned Apple, Google, and developers millions. i've no problem in them asking for cash..... but make it clear. the fact it's hidden in words such as 'tokens' is clear misdirection, and there for that sole reason. For everyone that's so clever it wouldn't catch them out..... just ignore these threads. There's plenty folk need some degree of protection!
      johnmckay
      • Hmmmm

        I suspect some 6 year olds can be quite smart. If they see something is 18+, how hard is it for a kid to fake his birth year?
        Gisabun
      • I agree

        that it is a bad practice, verging on a scam.

        But parents can help themselves by not registering a credit card to the account.
        wright_is
    • This is MALWARE

      legalised and made convenient by misleading consumers into open ended payment registration when you sign up.
      Apple banned in-app purchasing unless they got their cut of the theft!
      At least with Android, the option to create a user account WITHOUT a payment method attached is clear at sign up. Apple's sign-up misleads by saying a payment method is REQUIRED, even if you just want to download free apps or media.
      No coincidience that iOS is number 1 with loss of money thru in-app-purchasing.
      Legalised Trojans!
      warboat
    • Why credit cards?

      little Johnny gets a new iPad Mini for Christmas and when he opens it on Dec 25th, he wants to play with it. Mummy registers new Apple ID, payment method REQUIRED.
      Walk to shops and PAY for a Voucher and come home to continue registration, or enter Credit Card number for free RIGHT NOW and have Johnny playing "free games" in no time.
      I'll let you guess which option is taken most times.
      warboat
      • I suppose

        it helps that most people here don't have credit cards or are reluctant to use them.
        wright_is