Google will stop calling apps "free" if they offer in-app purchases

For a while, in-app purchases were the bane of every parents’ life. This is because with the old system, all you’d need to do is enter your iTunes password once, and you could go on a shopping spree, which has resulted in parents receiving credit card bills worth thousands of dollars. Apple has since made some changes due to pressure from the FCC, and some of those changes include labeling apps that have in-app purchases. Well it looks like over in Europe,Google has announced that they would be making some changes regarding in-app purchases as well. The Mountain View company has announced that they will no longer be labeling apps as “free” for games that require in-app purchases. They will also be coming up with targeted guidelines for games to discourage children to make in-app purchases. These changes are expected to be made by the end of September.

Google has agreed to add protections around games’ in-app purchases to ensure that children won’t rack up unwanted charges on their parents’ credit cards. The changes come at the request of the European Commission, which has been investigating the ongoing issue of unwanted in-app purchases and is today laying out a series of guidelines that it would like developers and app stores to comply with. Google has said that by the end of September, it will cease to advertise games as “free” when they include in-app purchases and that it will also require payment verification before each purchase. It’s unclear if these changes will be exclusive to Europe, however. Apple has also agreed to make changes at the behest of the commission, but it hasn’t agreed to any specific actions or any time line. This is much to the commission’s disapproval, but Apple doesn’t seem particular concerned. In a statement to the BBC, Apple actually says that it’s doing “more than others” to protect consumers from in-app purchases, pointing specifically to the upcoming iOS 8 feature Ask to Buy, which prevents children from making purchases and instead allows them to send that purchase to a parent for approval. In its guidelines, the commission asks that games advertised as free ensure that they do not mislead consumers about their true costs, that games do not directly ask children to make purchases (or to have a parent make purchases for them), that games make it clear how payments are made, and that games provide an email address that consumers can contact with questions and complaints. “In-app purchases are a legitimate business model,” EC vice president Neelie Kroes says, “but it’s essential for app-makers to understand and respect EU law while they develop these new business models.”

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