Italy’s Antitrust and Competition Authority says it is investigating “freemium” apps offered in Apple’s App Store along with similar stores operated by Google and Amazon, saying that customers could be misled by the “free” label, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

According to the regulatory group, users who download these apps for free could believe that the game is completely free and not know when downloading the app how much it will actually cost.

If Apple is found to have misled customers, the company could be fined as much as €5 million. It’s not likely to put a big dent in Apple’s cash reserve, but the Italian antitrust committee has previously convinced Apple to change its policy regarding AppleCare marketing.

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21 Responses to “Apple under fire from Italian antitrust regulator over freemium app sales model”

  1. What barf… it’s not Apple’s fault at all. Put the developers under fire.

    I suppose Apple could ditch free and just put more filler text there.

  2. rettun1 says:

    It’s not like the customer loses any money by downloading the app. Yes it is misleading, but I don’t see any serious damage in the situation

    • You do loose your data though.

    • Zaph says:

      “Yes it is misleading” I think that says it all. Honesty is not misleading. Misleading children is deplorable. And yes, the amounts of inapt purchases can be large, that is the damage.

      • rettun1 says:

        But this isn’t about in-app purchases mistakenly made by kids. It’s people who got something for free and were angry when there was a bit more to it than that. So just uninstall the app and move on! It is misleading, but it is by no means criminal. Maybe I’m missing something

      • rafalb177 says:

        Poor Italians. Their government think they’re idiots.

  3. ikir says:

    Italians are a country of idiots (I’m Italian too)
    Computer knowledge = 0

    • rafalb177 says:

      It seems quite correct. Lot of this kind of download existed on the internet for desktop apps (download for free) which offered only a limited functionality or other form of demo. And then the user could purchase the full version. This way, at least, people could try apps before being them. I guess Italians are not very good at doing business and likely don’t care about piracy. German government takes piracy problem very seriously and at the same time they don’t have problem with free apps offering in-app purchase. That’s how you boost sales. Once tried, the user doesn’t have to pay the full price if they don’t like the app, but they DO have a change to TRY it for FREE.

  4. iSRS says:

    It isn’t Apple/Google/Amazon’s fault, it isn’t developers fault. It is the fault of millions of people to whom 99¢ or $1.99 is too rich for their blood and don’t want to pay for an app.

  5. Gareth Cox says:

    Whats the problem, the App is free, its the consumer that chooses to buy stuff during the game, if you find the game has in app purchases then you have a choice, either don’t purchase the stuff or delete the game, you’ve not paid for anything, so you’ve not lost out, if your stupid enough to buy things then complain the game isn’t free then its your own fault, shouldn’t blame the Apple or the developers, Its like all these people that sign up to free monthly trials, then complain after the first month they have been charged, Just use a bit of common sense & stop blaming others for your stupidity.

  6. Who cares if they’re misled? It’s free.

  7. jakexb says:

    If the app truly isn’t free and doesn’t *work* without in app purchase, then yes it’s a problem.

    Downloading a free, basic version of an app that has optional paid enhancements should be totally fine though.

  8. The point is the italian government desperately need money. After getting as much as they can from the population, they’re now trying with big companies. I know, crappy country.

  9. Jan Klaassen says:

    When I saw the title I thought: “Not again. What is it this time.” Then I clicked it and saw it’s about those annoying in-app purchases. I have to agree with them. Those in-app purchases are incredibly annoying. You see “Free”, so you think it’s free and then there seems to be a whole list of in-app purchases to even get the functionality that was shown on the screenshots.

    That’s why I always check if there are any in-app purchases. I just refuse to install any apps that have in-app purchases. It’s not that I don’t want to pay. No, not at all, because I hate all those pirates who kill everything by downloading their stuff for free and a developers deserves to get payed, just like everyone else. I just want to get the whole package at once, immediately see the price of the whole package and pay just one time for a complete app. I also hated it when game developers started this stupid Downloadable Content stuff. You go to the shop, buy a game, install it on your PC and then there’s still Downloadable Content you can buy. WTF? Just put the whole game on the disc and let me just buy the complete game.

    The interesting thing is when the Mac version of these games are released they normally do release the whole game. Just look at the new Hitman that was released just a few days ago. It has a whole list of additional content. This is what I want. When I browse the Games section of the Mac App Store I see the new Hitman and next to it it immediately shows the price of the full game and with one click I can buy and install the whole package. No in-app nonsense.

    I’d say: Just ban this complete in-app nonsense. No, I don’t feel to good to pay. Absolutely not. I’m exactly the opposite. Still, I think in-app purchases are misleading. They just show “Free” so people will install an app without full functionality and then they hope people will pay to get the functionality they hoped to get with this “Free” app. It is misleading and a dirty way of doing business.

    • rafalb177 says:

      On the other side you have to buy something to know that you like it. With in-app purchase you get to try a game, whereas without such option you have only two options. Either buy it or not. Spending $20 on a game that you’d just throw away, because you thought it’d be good because the title sounds interesting or screenshots are cool, isn’t that great. If you’re willing to pay (and you are) you’d pay for a game to unlock full functionality. It’s a good gesture from developers that they let you try something for free. Personally, I consider in app nagging advertisement lot more annoying.