Apple, Google Pressured by EU Commission Over In-App Purchases

After consumer groups from Denmark, Britain, Italy, and Belgium raised concerns over in-app purchases offered by the App Store and Google Play, the European Commission has decided to send out a friendly invite to the hot seat to both Apple and Google (via the Telegraph).

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The main issue appears to be the freebie apps, which are free to download but can help “empty” one’s credit card via in-app purchases. The EU commission points to the online games, which are free to download but are said to carry hidden costs. You may recall several of the numerous cases of children being left in the company of iDevices, which ultimately resulted in huge iTunes bills thanks to in-app purchases offered within the games that parents allowed the child to play.

“Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection,” said the EU’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding.

“The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organisations.”

The EU market is expected to be worth about $86 billion within the next five years thanks to the rapidly growing tablet and smartphone adoption, the latest figures from the EU Commission show.

During the meeting, the parties will discuss proposals for clear explanations in games about the “hidden” costs, eventually removing action buttons such as “Buy now!” or “Upgrade now!” and elaborating a way that prevents debiting without explicit consent. There is also a proposal to provide an email address allowing customers to contact the companies immediately with their complaints.

You may recall that Apple has offered a refund to parents who reported unauthorized in-app purchases due to its settlement with the FTC. Also, iOS comes with handy tools that allow parents to disable in-app purchases completely.