Apple, Google and Amazon have reached an agreement that allows them to avoid fines for allegedly misleading people in the European Union. According to The Wall Street Journal, the three U.S. companies have agreed to remove the word ‘free’ from apps that may require payments or in-app purchases once people start using them. The report notes that all three companies, along with French game developer Gameloft, were under investigation by Italian authorities over allegedly misleading apps.
The authorities began investigating last year following a complaint from an Italian consumer association and came after the EU had called on companies to change the “freemium” model in which apps are free to download. Now, the companies have all agreed to make it clearer within the apps when people are about to make a purchase, according to Italy’s Antitrust and Competition Authority. “Consumers can now count on stronger guarantees than what would have been achieved by sanctioning the companies involved”, said the Italian regulator.
“The apps market is good for Europe and consumer satisfaction is high,” said a Google spokesman. “It is still a relatively new market—new for consumers, new for developers, and new for us too—and we will keep iterating to ensure our users enjoy the best experience possible.”
Amazon declined to comment. Apple and Gameloft couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
“We were able, together with the Antitrust Authority, to commit three giants of the web to change their behavior—not only in Italy but throughout Europe—this does not happen every day,” said Marco Pierani, the head of public affairs for Altroconsumo.
The companies, which have 60 days to implement the changes they have agreed to make, had faced a maximum fine of $5.65 million each.
Back in November, Apple had also made some changes to the App Store related to free apps, replacing the ‘FREE’ button with ‘GET’ for downloading freemium applications.