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European Commission chides Apple for not improving game in-app purchase policies

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
The legislative arm of the European Union has set its sights on Apple, accusing the iPhone maker of not doing enough to protect and inform consumers regarding in-app purchases, particularly in "free-to-play" mobile games.


Apple's recently added in-app purchase labels on iOS (left) and iTunes on Mac.


The European Commission put out a press release on Friday touting that action by it and member states has led to better protection for consumers in online games. Many popular titles on the iOS App Store are free to download, but encourage -- and in some cases require -- users to pay money to unlock new parts of the game.

Update: Apple has responded to the EC press release with a statement that it has been "leading the industry in parental controls that are incredibly easy to use" and "help ensure a great experience for parents and children," and that its efforts "go far beyond the features of others in the industry." The statement also highlighted Apple's upcoming plans for iOS 8.

While the European Commission said that Google has made a number of changes, it hopes for more from Apple. Particularly, the commission noted that Apple has not addressed concerns over payment authorization tied to iTunes accounts.

The commission also criticized Apple for not giving a firm commitment or timing on other possible future changes. In particular, the commission would like for Apple to not use the word "free" at all when listing games that include in-app purchases -- a policy that Google plans to comply with by the end of September.

The European Commission believes that games advertised as "free" are misleading consumers about the true costs involved in playing the title. In December of 2013, it asked Apple, Google, and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe to make sure that games do not directly ask children to buy items in a game, or persuade an adult to buy items for them.



The policies also suggest that consumers be adequately informed about payment arrangement for purchases, and that such purchases should not be debited through default settings without the consumer's explicit consent. The commission also wants companies to provide an email address in case a user wishes to contact them with questions or complaints.

While the commission doesn't believe Apple has done enough, Friday's press release does tout better protection for consumers in online games since it made its recommendations in late 2013.

This is significant for consumers," said EU Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica. "In particular, children must be better protected when playing online. The action also provides invaluable experience for the ongoing reflection on how to most effectively organize the enforcement of consumer rights in the Union."

Governments around the world have taken issue with in-app purchases in free games, responding to complaints from constituents who have seen their children rack of massive bills while playing iPhone or iPad games. Apple has taken steps to curb the issue, including a new in-app purchase warning that was added to iOS App Store and iTunes lists in April of this year.

While Apple still lists titles as available for "free," the company now notes that the application includes "in-app purchases" directly from the "Top Charts" view on iOS devices.

In February 2013, Apple settled a lawsuit leveled by a group of parents whose children accrued hundreds of dollars in bills through in-app purchases. The company paid out $5 iTunes gift card or cash equivalents for some plaintiffs, while those with larger tabs over $30 received full refunds.
post #2 of 30

Bloody communists 

post #3 of 30
Screw the EU. Go to the App Store and it's easy to see which apps offer in-app purchases. Also not all IAP apps are worthless without additions purchases so this idea that people are being misled is BS. I guess no one at the EU followed the WWDC keynote where Apple detailed additional parental controls coming in iOS 8.

I'm so sick of manufactured outrage and using Apple because people know Apple = media attention and page views. 1rolleyes.gif
post #4 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Appleinsider 
...it asked Apple, Google, and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe to make sure that games do not directly ask children to buy items in a game, or persuade an adult to buy items for them.

Best stop all advertising of products for kids on TV or anywhere else then, since that's persuading children/adults to buy. While we're at it, better put sweets and toys into plain packaging too and hide it behind curtains in shops. Maybe toy shops should be banned altogether.

Geez the EU really doesn't know when to keep their heads down, since they're deeply unpopular right now.
post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post

Geez the EU really doesn't know when to keep their heads down, since they're deeply unpopular right now.

 

Don't blame the EU. The British ASA has led the charge on this one. 

post #6 of 30
I was going to say if the EU doesn't like the word FREE, then they should suggest a word. But frankly, I don't see changing the word FREE to something else, would change kids habits. What I think would change things, is if a parent is going to give this type of technology to a kid, they should either: 1) educate the kid on the value of money (not likely an option for really young kids) or 2) restrict the device, using the options Apple gives them.

I really think Apple has made an attempt here to try and help parents.
post #7 of 30
Apple provided the response below to Engadget.

http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/18/google-wont-call-games-with-in-app-purchases-free-anymore/?ncid=rss_truncated
Quote:
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.
post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

Screw the EU.

The FTC is coming down hard on in-app purchases too.

I think there should be tighter controls over in-app purchasing. Some developers are clearly playing the system:

http://www.todaysiphone.com/2014/03/worst-app-purchase-culprits-app-store/

Having items in-game that cost $600 is ridiculous. In-app purchases are enabled by default, they should be disabled by default so an adult has to enable them. Kids can easily be installing free apps and then developers hide away expensive real purchases inside the games.

I doubt it's something any app store wants to clamp down on because over 90% of all their revenue comes from in-app purchases but they need to do more about the scam apps.

If you went into a store to buy an iPad and came home with a box of clay:

http://www.dailytech.com/Scam+Artists+Replace+iPad+2s+with+Blocks+of+Clay+in+Canada+Return+Them+for+Full+Refunds/article23809.htm

you'd be happy to have some consumer protection laws.

As mentioned above, iOS 8 will introduce a new Ask to Buy feature:

http://www.apple.com/uk/ios/ios8/family-sharing/

This will send a notification to a parent if a child wants to buy something. That should help eliminate the problem of children being overcharged as long as it's setup properly.
post #9 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonard View Post

I was going to say if the EU doesn't like the word FREE, then they should suggest a word. But frankly, I don't see changing the word FREE to something else, would change kids habits. What I think would change things, is if a parent is going to give this type of technology to a kid, they should either: 1) educate the kid on the value of money (not likely an option for really young kids) or 2) restrict the device, using the options Apple gives them.

I really think Apple has made an attempt here to try and help parents.

In most of Europe I've found the English word "free" to be used by far most often to mean "available" as in parking or hotel rooms available rather than "without cost." I've very rarely seen this meaning in use in America. I think a lack of clear comprehension on what free does and doesn't mean contributes to this problem.

Most of the games I currently play are freemium titles that are actually playable without financial investment. I do fairly well in Hearthstone without having spent a penny and I'm glad that's an option. I probably wouldn't have started playing it if there'd been a $10+ price tag.
post #10 of 30
Still it seems the EU Commission allows the powerful Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to use in marketing materials the word "unlimited" when indicating Internet connectivity services, which usually have a monthly cap of 2-3 Giga. So they are actually "limited".
post #11 of 30

I have to agree with this. I hate IAP games. The App store should have 3 columns, Paid, Free, IAP.

Every single IAP should require the password to be entered, not do it once and you are covered for 15 minutes.

post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

I guess no one at the EU followed the WWDC keynote where Apple detailed additional parental controls coming in iOS 8.

 

Um, do you really expect that consumers, parents, and EU commissioners should be paying attention to isolated speeches being given at highly-focused trade conferences, in other countries, intended for developers of software, for one brand of products?  And specific comments about features of a future product? Get real. 

post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaEarleGreyHot View Post

Um, do you really expect that consumers, parents, and EU commissioners should be paying attention to isolated speeches being given at highly-focused trade conferences, in other countries, intended for developers of software, for one brand of products?  And specific comments about features of a future product? Get real. 
Yes I expect whatever EU commission is responsible for this to know about what Apple's doing before they openly criticize. When I said EU I was referring to government not individual consumers. Otherwise they should have given Apple specific requirements and deadline for when they needed to be implemented by.
post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

I have to agree with this. I hate IAP games. The App store should have 3 columns, Paid, Free, IAP.
Every single IAP should require the password to be entered, not do it once and you are covered for 15 minutes.

Here's what's coming in iOS 8.

family_sharing_permission.jpg?itok=AZ0G0c1B

I think any app that requires IAP in order to work (like MS Office) should be labeled as Paid. There are IAP apps though that function perfectly fine without purchasing anything. I suppose Apple could require them to have two apps - one Free and one Paid. But I would rather just one app and allow me to upgrade inside the app if I want.
post #15 of 30
I guess the Family Plan (or whatever it is called) in iOS 8 is a sign that Apple is doing nothing?

I can clearly see what apps have IAP before I buy. I don't need the government to force Apple to do anything more. At what point do we need to accept responsibility for our own stupidity?

Parents: if you give your kids your iTunes password, you deserve everything that happens to you. And that's the nicest way I can put it.
post #16 of 30

What would they be labelled as other than "free"?  Bearing in mind that plenty of legitimate and worthy apps offer a free app with limited features and a paid upgrade to a full, feature-rich version.

 

I can't think of a word that fits.

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post #17 of 30

I believe Apple is doing more than enough regarding this matter. We do now have very visible badges if an app offers in app purchases and with iOS 8 and family sharing we even get the fantastic function of making our kids ask for permission if they want to buy something. Boom, no more accidental buying. So I really think this should be more than enough to "protect consumers".

 

At the same time I am seeing this discussion as damaging to in app purchases in general. Sure, there are some obscene titles in the App Store offering purchases which are meant for nothing else than ripping people off. Those really need to stop. However this whole discussion makes people think that in app purchases are something bad in general, and they aren't. Very often those are legitimate add-ons or otherwise extensions to apps. It would be quite sad seeing people avoid all apps with this in app purchase badge in the future.

 

Lastly, I think the EU should rather spend its resources on running campaigns to educate their citizens about the benefits of reading in general and reading before acting upon something. At the same time, run some campaigns on the fact that digitally distributed content such as software, games, books, music, films do actually have a value and are made by people who need to feed their families. Stop expecting free. Stop being stupid. If something that's any more than an amateur project is free, there's likely a catch to it. Teach people that, because this whole "I want everything for free" attitude doesn't really lead anywhere great.

Let's be serious here, those measures are not meant to protect any literal or halfway intelligent person. We all know what in app purchases mean. Even my grandma knows what it means. This is total horseshit trying to protect stupid people that actually fall for the "free". It's like when we used to make fun of Americans, who apparently needed to be protected from the "hot" coffee they just ordered. (sorry for that, but true) ;-)

post #18 of 30
Quote:
The European Commission believes that games advertised as "free" are misleading consumers about the true costs involved in playing the title.... 

Apple should display the min, average, and maximum cost of every app that has in-app purchases when the user presses download. Also, if the user is downloading a game, Apple should display a second table showing the per hour opportunity costs of playing the game.

 

/s

post #19 of 30
Whatever happened to the company that was asserting their apparent patent rights by suing one-by-one app devs who had in-app purchasing enabled? Did Apple step up or are small companies still being sued?

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply
post #20 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post


Yes I expect whatever EU commission is responsible for this to know about what Apple's doing before they openly criticize. When I said EU I was referring to government not individual consumers. Otherwise they should have given Apple specific requirements and deadline for when they needed to be implemented by.

 

It seems that EU were simply not satisfied with Apple's promise of improvements forthcoming in iOS 8, which of course, Apple will not give a firm release date for.  Also, "In particular, the commission would like for Apple to not use the word "free" at all when listing games that include in-app purchases -- a policy that Google plans to comply with by the end of September" seems to me to be a VERY reasonable approach.  I myself have become tired of downloading supposedly free apps, only to discover that they are merely free tours that expire and stop working after a week, or free advertisements of a full-featured app that costs money.  Misleading and wasting my time.  Almost as bad as the cable companies that won't tell you ahead of time in the ads or on their website what the price per month will be AFTER the "introductory rate" expires.  

post #21 of 30
Originally Posted by TeaEarleGreyHot View Post

It seems that EU were simply not satisfied with Apples promise of improvements forthcoming in iOS 8

 

By the time the psychopaths try to take this to court, iOS 8 will be out and they’ll have no case whatsoever.

 

Then again, they invent whatever laws they want to keep companies from being companies, so who knows.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #22 of 30
This is typical bureaucratic behavior.. Rather than adding any value to the system they simply do whatever they feel is needed to justify their own existance. A symptom of this sickness is never providing concrete standards or guidelines and only reacting to whatever working people do for a living. "I'm not going to tell you what I like, I'm only going to tell you what I don't like after you submit your next attempt." This creates an endless cycle so they always feel needed and worthy. We know otherwise. They are worthless.
post #23 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post
 

Bloody communists 

Totally destroys any credibility you may have had.

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

I guess no one at the EU followed the WWDC keynote where Apple detailed additional parental controls coming in iOS 8.
 

 As have most of the people here. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post
 

What would they be labelled as other than "free"?  Bearing in mind that plenty of legitimate and worthy apps offer a free app with limited features and a paid upgrade to a full, feature-rich version.

 

I can't think of a word that fits.

How about,

  • FreeApp (Cost of Internet/data usage may apply)
  • PayLater (As above. Limited use, In-app purchase$ optional)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cynic View Post
 

I believe Apple is doing more than enough regarding this matter. 

I believe that Apple's intent is great, but I am not totally sure it is enough. There is just too many ignorant people to guarantee total protection. 

 

This is not to suggest that the EU is any less ignorant. Having perused their site, it would appear that they or the commissioner have yet to receive a formal document from Apple of their intent. Certainly, as history has shown us, getting everyone to accept or even keep open minded to what Apple presents in a keynote, or anywhere else, has limiting success; often tho, not from people that are simply ignorant, but more from those who are stupid, mean or jealous.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post
 

The App store should have 3 columns, Paid, Free, IAP.

Every single IAP should require the password to be entered, not do it once and you are covered for 15 minutes.

 

Although there is a saying, "Buyer Beware," but there are a lot of folks who just want to take every cent they can get out of you. And it cost everyone of us every time these scammers get successful. No matter what side of the pond you live on

 

Great idea.


Edited by Onhka - 7/18/14 at 10:12am
post #24 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

Screw the EU. Go to the App Store and it's easy to see which apps offer in-app purchases. Also not all IAP apps are worthless without additions purchases so this idea that people are being misled is BS. I guess no one at the EU followed the WWDC keynote where Apple detailed additional parental controls coming in iOS 8.

I'm so sick of manufactured outrage and using Apple because people know Apple = media attention and page views. 1rolleyes.gif

 

Of course people are being misled, particularly children.

 

Moreover, why hasn't Apple, up to THIS DAY, enabled a search function by which we may exclude ANY app using IAPs? I do not even want to see them in my search results and couldn't care less about how many useless IAPs one may pay for in Candy Crush Saga.

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post #25 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post
 

I have to agree with this. I hate IAP games. The App store should have 3 columns, Paid, Free, IAP.

Every single IAP should require the password to be entered, not do it once and you are covered for 15 minutes.

 

Absolutely agreed. See also my comment above.

iMac Intel 27" Core i7 3.4, 16GB RAM, 120GB SSD + 1TB HD + 4TB RAID 1+0, Nuforce Icon HDP, OS X 10.9.1; iPad Air 64GB; iPhone 5 32GB; iPod Classic; iPod Nano 4G; Apple TV 2.
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post #26 of 30
I would love to see an option to simply filter out these games from my view of the store. They just feel slimy, more like bait and switch. If enough people start filtering these out, and Apple shares the numbers, maybe developers would get the message?

At the same time I would like to see a category for software that is downloaded as trial, but includes an option to pay to unlock the full package, much like shareware did in the past. Not sure how this could work though, so that it is clear and informative.
post #27 of 30
Personal accountability.
We really need this today and it seems more and more we are creating laws and policies that deminish the need for people to know what it means and or to have any.

What happened to ignorance of the law (policy, settings, true cost/function, etc) not being an excuse? If the information is readily available for someone to find and become informed on how something works it should be their own responsibility to control.

I do not want not need a Nannie state. We should not be protected from our own ignorance. How else are we to weed out inferior genetics if we continue to save them all. Or is Idiocracy truly what our future will look like.
post #28 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

I have to agree with this. I hate IAP games. The App store should have 3 columns, Paid, Free, IAP.
Every single IAP should require the password to be entered, not do it once and you are covered for 15 minutes.

Paid apps might have IAPs too though (EA's Need for Speed for example) and a single label doesn't seem adequate to let a buyer know what the IAPs are. A free app might simply have adverts with an IAP to remove the ads for $0.99. That's very different from an app that could have you spending hundreds of dollars on content.

Reports already use a word freemium to describe these apps. That still lets people know that it's essentially free. This word could be a link on the App Store that when clicked specifies every in-app purchase that an app allows with the prices next to them and says if they are one-off or recurring. There would have to be a similar link for paid apps.

Perhaps they could simply put the price of the most expensive IAP in brackets next to the purchase price and that could be a link that lists all IAPs. That would quickly put developers off putting a $600 IAP in their game.
post #29 of 30

It"s Apple's to communicate on it.

No, not through a bulletpointed speech.

 

Technical data, facts, ...

 

Not cheering and clapping

post #30 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by nervus View Post

Personal accountability.
We really need this today and it seems more and more we are creating laws and policies that deminish the need for people to know what it means and or to have any.

What happened to ignorance of the law (policy, settings, true cost/function, etc) not being an excuse? If the information is readily available for someone to find and become informed on how something works it should be their own responsibility to control.

I do not want not need a Nannie state. We should not be protected from our own ignorance. How else are we to weed out inferior genetics if we continue to save them all. Or is Idiocracy truly what our future will look like.

Don't want it either.
But I want a state where rogue players, feeding on the ignorance of others, to be banished from the free market.

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