Google to Stop Labelling Apps “Free” If They Have in-App Purchases.

Google have made the very welcome decision to remove the “free” tag from apps which off in-app purchases. By the end of September, all apps on the Play Store in Europe will be affected by the change and it’s likely that a global roll out of this feature will soon follow.

This is a great change for the mobile community, who are often duped into downloading a game or app on the promise of free features, only to then be asked to hand over a little extra to unlock all the features, more levels, content packages and more. Some “free” titles, especially free-to-play games such as Real Racing 3 use this model and while some may think of it as a cost-effective solution to paying £40 for a retail game, like you would on a console, it would actually cost you hundreds of pounds to unlock all the content that particular game has to offer. It is this kind of free that I want to see removed, because this is a paid game with some free content, something we used to refer to as a demo.

These changes are in response to an agreement with the European Commission (EC), as part of their plans to help better protect families with children who have been known to rack up huge bills via in-app purchases. Now both Google and Apple have been asked by the European Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC Network) to assure the following:

  • Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
  • Games should not directly encourage children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
  • Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent;
  • Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.

Many app developers have been exploiting that free tag for a while now and personally I’ll be glad to see the market place updated to reflect which apps really are available to download completely free of charge. Unfortunately Google are the only ones addressing the matter at this time, Apple are yet to take action.

“Regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorization, 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.” said the EC in regards to Apple.

It is interesting to see Apple behind Google on this one, especially after being hit with a minimum of $32.5 million in settlements for billing in-app purchases to children without their parents’ consent.

Thank you Forbes for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of WonderHowTo.