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The European Commission has complained that Apple is taking too long to implement protections for freemium games in the App Store, reports BBC News. The Commission has decreed that both Apple and Google, the two biggest app store vendors, must make the “true cost of apps” clear before purchase. However, officials are upset that Apple has not yet committed to any such measures.

“Regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorisation,” the Commission said in a statement.

“Apple has proposed to address those concerns. However, no firm commitment and no timing have been provided for the implementation of such possible future changes.

Apple has responded to the claims, saying that it does “more than others”. It has already announced Family Sharing features, where children must ask for parental permission before apps can be bought, for iOS 8.

“These controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry,” an Apple spokesman said.

“But we are always working to strengthen the protections we have in place, and we’re adding great new features with iOS 8, such as Ask to Buy, giving parents even more control over what their kids can buy on the App Store.”

Consumer protection authorities will continue to work with Apple to police and ensure the necessary changes to the App Store take place. Apparently, Google has already confirmed that it will implement a number of changes to Google Play in September, which seems to have appeased the EU Commission for the time being.

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Currently, the iTunes Store lists top IAP’s on an app detail page.

The furore over ‘misleading’ IAP-powered titles has blown up in recent months. In January, the UK Office of Fair Trading released official guidelines for app developers on how to appropriately advertise IAP-driven ‘free’ games.

However, the EU has gone one step further applying pressure to platform owners, not individual developers. The EU has ruled that national authorities can take legal action against noncompliant parties.

Update: Apple told Engadget in a statement:

Apple takes great pride in leading the industry in parental controls that are incredibly easy to use and help ensure a great experience for parents and children on the App Store. The parental controls in iOS are strong, intuitive and customizable. And over the last year we made sure any app which enables customers to make in-app purchases is clearly marked. We’ve also created a Kids Section on the App Store with even stronger protections to cover apps designed for children younger than 13.

These controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry. But we are always working to strengthen the protections we have in place, and we’re adding great new features with iOS 8, such as Ask to Buy, giving parents even more control over what their kids can buy on the App Store.

Our goal is to continue to provide the best experience for our customers and we will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns.

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24 Responses to “EU accuses Apple of dragging its feet on protections for ‘misleading’ IAP-driven free apps”

  1. thebums66 says:

    All you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of the description and tap on in app purchases to see what the cost could be. Plus, when you tap on the name in the App Store it will say under the title “offers in-app purchases”. Though it would make it easier as a parent to see the cost up front to decide if you want your child to own one of those apps. Plus maybe it’ll help drive down some of the rediculus prices being charged in app. One of my favorite games, cut the rope, now has in app purchase that your kid – if left alone – could tap your credit card for over a hundred dollars. Hopefully iOS 8 with parent permission will help control this.

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    • You can control it today by not giving the kid the iTunes store password. It’s common sense. The iOS8 functionality makes it easier for kids to buy as they don’t need to walk up to you with the device so you can put in a password.

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  2. I’m with Europe on this. In-App purchases *are* inherently misleading. I don’t see any good reason or upside (at least for the consumer) to have them, and I think they should be banned outright. It’s clear that most of the time, the reason they are there is to fool the consumer into spending more money than they normally would wish to.

    The only value to the consumer I can think of is an immoral one. They allow you to *purchase* the answers to the puzzle or the skill to finish a game. How did that even become a thing, and why is it considered “good” now?

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    • Robert Nixon says:

      While I think in-app purchases are stupid, I think it’s absurd to call them “immoral”. Last I checked, morality didn’t depend on the ability to progress in a game without spending money.

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      • Well, there wasn’t really a word that fits, so I went with immoral as (I thought) the least objectionable one.

        The closest word that describes what that kind of in-app purchasing is … is “cheat.” You are basically buying “cheats” or inside information so you can complete the game. This is by definition an “immoral act” so I went with that thinking that calling everyone cheaters would be worse.

        I guess cheating is more or less an accepted thing nowadays. My apologies.

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    • bb1111116 says:

      @ Mr. Grey who wrote;

      “They allow you to *purchase* the answers to the puzzle or the skill to finish a game. How did that even become a thing, and why is it considered “good” now?”

      Being able to “pay to win” has been happening with games for over 15 years.
      – Originally, players would find rare items such as in EverQuest and sell those items online.
      – Later on independent companies were set up to sell items to players. This was a common way for Diablo 2 players to equipment to deal with Uber characters in the game.
      – Later the game companies themselves created in game stores items could be bought. Guild Wars 1 sold every spell and he says armor in their store.

      * Pay to win is based on the concept of capitalism.
      There is a demand for a product and people or a company may sell that product.
      * Why would gamers want to buy game items?
      There are various reasons including;
      Making it easier to win,
      Wanting to save time.

      * Imo the morality of “pay to win” is not simple.
      Pay to win has allowed many massive multi player online PC games to reduce costs for the patient player.
      – This allows the patient player to play several games for free.

      * As for what Apple is doing about in app purchases, there are lots of controls on Apple devices that parents can use to prevent their children from spending money within apps.
      – Also, there is information in the App Store to warn parents about in app purchases.
      – Maybe Apple could do more to help parents pay more attention to their devices. If so, I imagine this will get done.

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      • You are re-writing history a bit here.

        Your header states that this has been “happening … for over 15 years,” but the details of your account absolutely *deny* that it has been happening for anything like that amount of time (at least legally, and by the companies that actually make the games). You kind of make my point for me.

        Game cheats were indeed common as both of us have said, then people started selling them as both of us have also said, but what you leave out is that the whole business was dodgy, third-party, and something the actual game manufacturers didn’t want to touch until very recently. The idea of actually *selling* the cheats was looked on as horrendous and possibly illegal at the time it debuted, if you remember.

        This is my point entirely. Something that was shady, bad, and has become mainstream. “Cheating” has become mainstream. Because, as you say “Capitalism” allows it, and (as I would add), people are sometimes selfish and immoral.

        It’s the same thing as self-styled nerds who think they are smart because they read the article on how to solve Rubik’s cube. If you read the directions, you haven’t “solved” anything. If you bought a game level, then you didn’t actually play the game either.

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  3. Robert Nixon says:

    The only way free apps with in-app purchases become non-free is if parents are stupid and irresponsible enough to give their kids the password.

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  4. It’s called turning the restrictions on on the device. My son has an iPad mini, I turned on the restrictions to block inappropriate websites, downloading/deleting apps, and several other areas of the iPad/content that wouldn’t be appropriate for a seven year old. He doesn’t have the ability to look through the iTunes Store to harass me about a million games he wants, because when you turn off app downloading in the restrictions, the App Store icon goes away. He doesn’t have the Apple ID password, so he can’t do in-app purchases.

    And like another person said, free apps with in-app purchases are labeled “Offers in-app purchases.” I can understand getting free apps with in-app purchases. I have Photoshop Express, it’s a free photo editing app. I’ve used it a million times and haven’t spent a dime. There are premium filters/editing tools that are offered, but I haven’t needed them. The only issue with in-app purchases I have are apps that are useless without spending money on in-app purchases. The focus should be on those apps rather than the concept of free apps with in-app purchases as a whole. If you’re going to label it as free, it should be functional without purchasing additional features.

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  5. Apple, get your house in order!
    To implement such a change, is simple and quick. Quit stalling.
    To be so greedy to get the 30% share is a tarnish on an otherwise quite clean house.

    There ought to be an outright ban on in-app purchasing! And all apps, should have price bracketing that is easy and intuitive to understand. Such as 1$ 5$ 10$ 15$ 20$ and thats it!

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    • There is. There has been for years. But every time this thing comes up some moron like yourself goes on about Apple must do something about it.

      Look… but according to ignorant folk it doesn’t exist!

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      • You didn’t get my point (and probably neither EU’s point as well)
        In-app purchasing should be completely discarded, so that it dosen’t take place OR be completely clear so the consumer knows EXACTLY what he’s paying for.

        Pay 10$ for a game and thats it, no more purchasing should be allowed.
        You MUST make the TOTAL cost of said game available at time of purchase.

        Otherwise you get these “free” games (or other software), but they’re not really “free”, they’re just a platform to enable purchasing, much like shareware was back in the 90’s.

        Of course Apple stalls on this, because they earn 30% on apps, so why bother to “hurry up” and meet EU requirements.

        Its not about making a setting available or not, its about the App store and pricing.
        Calling someone a moron, isn’t going to help the conversation, but since you started, learn to eat a little of your own medicine :)

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      • bb1111116 says:

        @ Andre who wrote;

        “You MUST make the TOTAL cost of said game available at time of purchase”

        You are uninformed. The cost of in app purchases is available in the App Store description.

        “they’re not really “free””

        Again, you are uninformed. A game like Plants vs. Zombies 2 is free. It can be completed free.
        The in app purchases are optional.

        “Of course Apple stalls on this”

        Apple is not stalling. Apple makes clear on their support website how to control in app purchases.

        “It’s not about making a setting available”

        It is about is CHOICE. I have the choice to get a free game (and there are many free online games like Lord of the Rings Online). I like that free option.
        – Many people have the discipline and awareness to play free games without spending any money or very little money on in app purchases (including by using settings).
        * You and your socialist friends want to take away choice; so that the government tells everyone what kind of games people play and how much money people must pay for games.

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      • bb1111116, funny how one is suddenly called a socialist, just because of differing opinions.

        Listen, I want (I agree with EU) to be able to see the TOTAL price of a game.
        We all still have a choice whether to buy it or not, the labelling of the product must be clear.

        I am so put-off with stupid apps labeled as “free” but then after 10mins of play, you must pay for the full version or some such similar nonsense.
        Same as Microsoft Office for iPad, you have to have a subscription. Totally nonsense.
        Its very misleading, no two ways about it.

        When I was visiting USA, driving down the street, I was absolutely bombarded with neon street signs and these huge ugly commercials along the road.
        No wonder you guys are so stressed.

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go enjoy my FREE socialist medical care, without paying a single cent or whatever currency you use to pay for medical expenses :)

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      • bb1111116 says:

        @ Andre who wrote;

        “bb1111116, funny how one is suddenly called a socialist, just because of differing opinions.”

        When you advocate for government censorship of how games can be priced and played, then that is socialist.

        * You previously wrote;

        “You didn’t get my point (and probably neither EU’s point as well)
        In-app purchasing should be completely discarded”

        That is government censorship of the type of games that people can play and how games are priced.
        That’s socialism.

        * You also wrote;

        “Listen, I want (I agree with EU) to be able to see the TOTAL price of a game.”

        You remain uninformed.
        I will explain it to you again.
        * The total price of a game depends on the player.
        The OPTIONAL in app purchase cost is listed in the App Store.
        * And again, a free game can be free.
        I gave an example; Plants vs. Zombies 2 is free. It can be completed without spending any money.
        * So, the total price of a free game is up to the player.
        Free games can be played for free if a player is patient.

        “Same as Microsoft Office for iPad, you have to have a subscription. Totally nonsense.
        Its very misleading, no two ways about it.”

        Programs in the App Store clearly state “In App Purchases”.
        If you don’t like In App Purchases, then don’t get the app.

        You don’t have to have a government telling how to think and what to buy.
        You can make those choices yourself.
        It’s called the freedom to choose.

        “I’ll go enjoy my FREE socialist medical care, without paying a single cent”

        Nothing is free. Your medical care is paid for with taxes.
        – I have no problem with your medical system in your country. I am not trying to control your life.
        * But I do have a problem with the EU and EU supporters taking away my choices and controlling how I buy and play games.

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      • Thanks bb111116, for being more civil in your answer this time :)

        Now look, EU is not trying to control WHAT apps you can or can not purchase, its about the clearly labelling the pricing system.

        I’ll give you another example (but not from Apple) so you know the similarity of this type of price labelling:
        Some time ago, mobile phone resellers would offer a phone for say 5$ and the customer would go to the shop thinking the phone cost 5$. It did, but only with a contract with an operator which you pay off for a minimum of 6 months. Thus the total cost of the phone (usually higher than an unlocked phone) was much higher and the price was not made apparent to the customer at time of purchase. He/she had to stand in the shop with a calculator and work it all out before making a choice to buy or not. But in the advertisment it only stated 5$ and nothing else.
        That has since changed so now all advertisers must list the full price under the “offer”.

        Thats why (in my opinion as to why it is – I haven’t read the full EU document) as to why Apple must also show the full price of software in the app store, WITHOUT having to click “show more” or “reveal full price”.
        It must be available on the front page of the app.
        This “little” detail is what its about. Nothing more.

        In no way is the EU trying to control what you can download or not.
        And has nothing to do with socialism, many countries in the EU don’t have socialist ruling parties, so its totally irrelevant for you to even begin that discussion. Yes medicine/hospitals are paid through taxes, so you’re right its not free in that sense. But you also pay taxes and still you must pay toll roads and medicine e.t.c.

        But that aside, speaking about control, Apple decides what apps should be available to buy/download all by themselves. Isn’t that limiting your freedom of choice as well?
        You have to jailbreak and download things from Cydia if you want “total” freedom.
        (Not that I mind Apple doing it this way – just using Apple as an example)

        Where I differ from EU is this:
        I want in-app purchasing scheme to be completely obliterated!
        Its too close to 90’s shareware.
        Its just a headache.
        The examples you gave, sure, you can complete a game for free without paying, but there are countless examples too, where you must pay to complete.
        Or to pay to avoid in-app advertising, this is just as irritating!

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      • bb1111116 says:

        @ Andre; our argument has become repetitive.

        “I want in-app purchasing scheme to be completely obliterated!”

        I understand Andre. You want the government to censor how people pay for apps and what kind of apps they can buy.
        I don’t want that kind of government censorship.
        I like downloading free games and I can avoid paying for in app purchases.

        “The examples you gave, sure, you can complete a game for free without paying, but there are countless examples too, where you must pay to complete.”

        What are your examples?
        Microsoft Office? The App Store description clearly states what the free version does and the cost to get other features.
        Any other examples?

        “Or to pay to avoid in-app advertising, this is just as irritating!”

        Now you don’t like in app advertising?
        The Google search page, and numerous websites have advertising.
        I guess you want the government to censor that too and have the government take over the internet.

        “Thats why (in my opinion … Apple must also show the full price of software in the app store, WITHOUT having to click “show more” or “reveal full price”.
        It must be available on the front page of the app.”

        1. Again, the FULL PRICE depends on the player. Free games can be free.
        2. I would be OK with the in app purchase cost information being easier to be seen with a link button next to the buy button.
        3. I would also agree for in app purchase controls to be in a separate settings category and for a link in the App Store to take the user to those settings.
        * I want the customer to choose to get free apps if they want.
        – The customer should have the choice to pay for in app purchases if they want.
        – I don’t want government to be censoring what kind of apps people can get.

        “But that aside, speaking about control, Apple decides what apps should be available to buy/download all by themselves. Isn’t that limiting your freedom of choice as well?”

        Not the same thing.
        I have a choice of companies for mobile devices and PCs; Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, OS X.
        If I don’t like one product ecosystem, I can move to another product.

        But government censorship, which you advocate, is about total control.
        If the government says no free apps, then that controls ALL COMPANIES and then the customer loses their choice.

        “I’ll give you another example (but not from Apple) so you know the similarity of this type of price labelling:
        Some time ago, mobile phone resellers would offer a phone for say 5$ and the customer would go to the shop thinking the phone cost 5$. It did, but only with a contract with an operator which you pay off for a minimum of 6 months.”

        Not the same thing.
        – This phone would only work for 6 months at $5. After 6 months, the phone would not work AT ALL unless the customer paid more than $5.
        – That is different from free apps.
        The free apps we are talking about work on some level for free.
        There is no time limit for the free portion of the app to work.
        The free part always works.

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      • @bb1111116, sigh, you keep reading “government censorship” into what I write. Its not about that at all.
        Its about CLARITY, to label pricing for what the software costs, NOT to control any of it.
        its that simple.

        I personally don’t want in-app purchasing, but this is me only, nothing to do with the government.

        Here is where we (mostly) find some common ground:
        “2. I would be OK with the in app purchase cost information being easier to be seen with a link button next to the buy button.”

        I don’t want an extra button, I just want the TOTAL price next to the purchase price, so I can see it without clicking anywhere else. This is what EU wants too.

        Nothing anywhere else is about control. I, like you, also don’t want the government to decide for me what apps I can or can not purchase, but as I said, its not about that at all.

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    • Apple does everything you’ve listed except ban in-app purchases.
      They’re labeled in the App Store with “Offers in-app purchases” and in the details it gives you a list of common in-app purchases.
      I have free apps that offer in-app purchases and they function just fine without me having ever spent a dime on them. Photoshop Express is a great photo editing app, it’s free and fully functional without spending a dime. If you want more/premium filters or two additional editing tools, you can buy them. That’s just one example of a free app with in-app purchases, I have too many to keep going. I’ve spent money on two games with in-app purchases that were listed as free in the nearly five years I’ve been using Apple devices.
      Just because you’re too lazy to read the details of an app or notice the label of “Offers in-app purchases,” doesn’t mean the option should be banned.

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      • Ok I was just using games as an example.
        It can be any category of software.

        The point is not about choice or not, or about being told that there IS in-app offers or not.
        Its about being told HOW MUCH in TOTAL the app will cost me with all the whistles and bells.

        We both know that just because its labelled “free” doesn’t necessarily make it free at all.

        Its not about being lazy, its about making details coherent.

        (Personally I read all details just fine, but the general population does not = hence the need for coherency)

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  6. I must be missing something here, do both platforms not have parental control settings?

    I know a few families who’s kids have phone/tablet devices and their parents have them locked down tight! They have done this to control what content can be viewed, what apps are installed and so they can keep an eye out for any shady people who may be trying to chat to them.

    Yes wording could be changed and additional locks/controls added but at the end of the day, should it not be up to the parents to police what their kids can view, access and/or download?

    With regards to in app purchases being banned, they don’t just exist on mobile devices. Software companies have been doing this for years, selling you one product and they offering upgrades or add ons at additional cost….

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    • I don’t know about Google Play, but the App Store requires the Apple ID password to make a purchase. Not only that, but the devices themselves have a restrictions setting so you can take away the App Store icon/access altogether until you enter the password to the restrictions to enable it again. I’ve done it to my son’s iPad. Haven’t had a single issue with unauthorized purchases.

      Like

      • jerryfromcan says:

        In general I feel like the way freemium games display IAPs violates some sort of truth in pricing legislation in many countries that has been enacted in other industries that are better understood by legislators. The example of a cell phone plan above was great… In Canada we recently went through some issues with telecoms advertising their BEST price under the most ideal circumstances vs the average consumer. So a few things I see:

        1) app descriptions should reveal an average player cost (yikes!). For freemium games, tell us the average amount a user spends on IAP.

        2) IAP needs to be harder to do. Right now it’s deliberately misleading to players (and knowing age ratings on games and children, it’s like selling cigarettes to minors). Putting fantasy currency right next to another fantasy currency (that costs real dollars) would violate consumer protection and advertising laws in most countries. In fact, IAP to succeed in a game could be the oldest deception of modern times… Bait and switch. “Hey come play this games! It’s FREE! Oh, but to actually be able to get anywhere in the game is 24 bucks”. Right off the bat knowing what Simpsons:Tapped Out has done to EAs bottom line calling it free in any way is NOT the experience of the average user, and thus an untrue and misleading statement.

        3) premium passes. I have no issue that Devs should be paid for their time and effort. But let me pay TSTO for instance for 5 bucks a month giving me a much higher earn rate on donuts and whatever else vs trying to take it out of me freemium style. The far greater sin freemium has taught game companies is…

        4) using the freemium model on console games. I’m looking at you EA. “Hey user, buy Tiger woods for your console for 60 bucks and you can unlock the courses just like every other year (and we haven’t changed them one bit by the way). Oh, but since it will take you about 80 hours per course to unlock enough coins/other BS currency, why not pay us real money?” Freemium mobile games are actually ruining console games!!!

        Like

      • @Jerryfromcam, good points! Completely agree.

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