Apple, Google & Amazon settle with Italian government over 'misleading' free apps with in-app purcha

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
Apple, along with Google and Amazon, will avoid fines from the Italian government after agreeing to revise policies regarding so-called "freemium" mobile games and applications.




Italy's Antitrust and Competition Authority will not levy any further charges against the trio of American companies, or French developer Gameloft, in return for the parties no longer using the word "free" to describe titles with in-app purchases. The agreement was first reported on Friday by The Wall Street Journal.

The Italian government began the investigation, in conjunction with the European Union, last May. Italy and the EU said consumers may be confused by the idea of downloading an app for free, then buying content after the fact that will be charged to their credit cards.

"Consumers can now count on stronger guarantees than what would have been achieved by sanctioning the companies involved," the Italian Antitrust and Competition Authority said in a statement.

Apple appears to have begun complying with the rules on the App Store last November, when it changed the download link buttons for apps from "Free" to "Get." The "Get" button now applies to all applications on the App Store, whether they include in-app purchases or not.

Most of the top grossing apps for iPhone are free-to-play games, which users can download for free but encourage -- or sometimes require -- in-app purchases to advance.

So-called "freemium" titles have been a source of controversy, as they can be downloaded by children who can rack up charges on their parents' App Store account. That prompted Apple to add a notice in 2013 highlighting when a free application includes in-app purchases.

Apple was even sued in 2011 and was accused of collecting "millions of dollars" from unauthorized in-app purchases made by children. Apple settled the case last year and offered $5 iTunes credits to the complainants.

Apple had prior incentive to settle with the Italian government, as the iPhone maker had been the target of multiple investigations from the nation's Antitrust Authority, including a $1.2 million fine in 2011 for unfair commercial practices associated with standard product warranties. The regulator added another $264,000 for the same warranty issue a year later despite modifying AppleCare policies.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    Finally!! Free-to-Play apps have ruined the gaming universe and must NOT be placed on the same level of free apps.
  • Reply 2 of 21
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,530member

    Gotta protect the stupid ones don’t you know. And the parents who can’t seem to figure out how to supervise their children’s online activities.

  • Reply 3 of 21
    I was wondering why they changed "Free" to "Get". I just wish you did not need to type in your iTunes password when you "Get" a free app. I also wish that you did not need to begin the download in order to really own the app. Sometimes the app is too large to be downloaded via cellular data or too big to fit on your device so you cannot download it but you still want to own it for later download. There is no way to do that currently so if it is on sale for a day and you are on a trip, you cannot take advantage of the sale.
  • Reply 4 of 21
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,788member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GrangerFX View Post



    I was wondering why they changed "Free" to "Get". I just wish you did not need to type in your iTunes password when you "Get" a free app. I also wish that you did not need to begin the download in order to really own the app. Sometimes the app is too large to be downloaded via cellular data or too big to fit on your device so you cannot download it but you still want to own it for later download. There is no way to do that currently so if it is on sale for a day and you are on a trip, you cannot take advantage of the sale.

     

    You can easily and immediately stop a download and then download it again at your convenience.

  • Reply 5 of 21
    joshajosha Posts: 901member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

     

    Gotta protect the stupid ones don’t you know. And the parents who can’t seem to figure out how to supervise their children’s online activities.


    Your comment is stupid, these Apps were not up front honest about their costs involved.

    By categorizing them as free, many people including me would download them only to realize later their use is very limited without paying a fee.  I deleted them immediately when a fee was needed, but my time involved was wasted.

    That's misrepresentation of a product, which Apple should have stopped as soon as they knew it was occuring.

  • Reply 6 of 21

    I love how the banner ads for this page are all a bunch of "free" games for download to iOS right now.  :)

  • Reply 7 of 21
    dugbugdugbug Posts: 283member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JoshA View Post

     

    Your comment is stupid, these Apps were not up front honest about their costs involved.

    By categorizing them as free, many people including me would download them only to realize later their use is very limited without paying a fee.  I deleted them immediately when a fee was needed, but my time involved was wasted.

    That's misrepresentation of a product, which Apple should have stopped as soon as they knew it was occuring.


     

    well freemium and in-app-purchasing have gotten mixed up.  A free app that you can pay to unlock an additional level or somesuch in my mind is completely acceptable (and I even sell one like this).   This freemium stuff where you have to purchase in-game-currency drives me up the wall.

  • Reply 8 of 21
    josha wrote: »
    Your comment is stupid, these Apps were not up front honest about their costs involved.
    By categorizing them as free, many people including me would download them only to realize later their use is very limited without paying a fee.  I deleted them immediately when a fee was needed, but my time involved was wasted.
    That's misrepresentation of a product, which Apple should have stopped as soon as they knew it was occuring.

    The app was free to you until the time it presented you with the opportunity to pay for additional features. "Free" was accurate.
  • Reply 9 of 21
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JoshA View Post

     

    Your comment is stupid, these Apps were not up front honest about their costs involved.

    By categorizing them as free, many people including me would download them only to realize later their use is very limited without paying a fee.  I deleted them immediately when a fee was needed, but my time involved was wasted.

    That's misrepresentation of a product, which Apple should have stopped as soon as they knew it was occuring.


    The apps were up front about the costs. There was no misrepresentation. If people would learn to read, they would have read the part that says In App Purchases in the description of the app. 

  • Reply 10 of 21
    iaeeniaeen Posts: 588member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by LilSmirk View Post



    Finally!! Free-to-Play apps have ruined the gaming universe and must NOT be placed on the same level of free apps.

    Unfortunately, I think this is going to turn out to be a total abandonment of the word "free" within the app stores (indeed, Apple have already done this). There will continue to be no distinction between freemium and other apps that have no purchase price.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JoshA View Post

     

    Your comment is stupid, these Apps were not up front honest about their costs involved.

    By categorizing them as free, many people including me would download them only to realize later their use is very limited without paying a fee.  I deleted them immediately when a fee was needed, but my time involved was wasted.

    That's misrepresentation of a product, which Apple should have stopped as soon as they knew it was occuring.


    Other than the time it takes to install and remove the app, there is no damage. In fact you could (as I do) check the "in app purchases" tab before downloading the app to avoid wasting even that time. I agree, it is annoying, but it is hardly deserving of false advertising accusations.

  • Reply 11 of 21
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,969member
    lkrupp wrote: »
    Gotta protect the stupid ones don’t you know. And the parents who can’t seem to figure out how to supervise their children’s online activities.

    There are games (Angry Birds for one) that initially didn't have IAPs, and added them in an update. A parent could very easily missed that fact, and allow their child to play unsupervised thinking they're safe.
  • Reply 12 of 21
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,341member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GrangerFX View Post



    I was wondering why they changed "Free" to "Get". I just wish you did not need to type in your iTunes password when you "Get" a free app. I also wish that you did not need to begin the download in order to really own the app. Sometimes the app is too large to be downloaded via cellular data or too big to fit on your device so you cannot download it but you still want to own it for later download. There is no way to do that currently so if it is on sale for a day and you are on a trip, you cannot take advantage of the sale.



    I'm in the middle on this somewhere.  Yeah, it's tiresome to enter one's password to download a "free" app.  At the same time, if my iDevice is ever stolen and the thief is too stupid I wouldn't want "free" apps to suddenly start appearing on my other iOS devices because he hasn't bothered to wipe it out.



    I know lots of holes in my argument... but hopefully the message comes across.

  • Reply 13 of 21
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JoshA View Post

     

    Your comment is stupid, these Apps were not up front honest about their costs involved.

    By categorizing them as free, many people including me would download them only to realize later their use is very limited without paying a fee.  I deleted them immediately when a fee was needed, but my time involved was wasted.

    That's misrepresentation of a product, which Apple should have stopped as soon as they knew it was occuring.


     

     

    Really? All those "free" apps clearly said in app purchases were available. I think a reasonable person would figure out that you can download and play for free, but the game experience will be enhanced by purchasing add ons.

     

    Further, parents can easily shut off in app purchases on a phone, so an app does not allow in app purchases.

     

     

     

  • Reply 14 of 21
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,884member
    Can we all just agree to treat a settlement as an admission of wrongdoing at this point?
  • Reply 15 of 21
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by LilSmirk View Post



    Finally!! Free-to-Play apps have ruined the gaming universe and must NOT be placed on the same level of free apps.



    Ah, would you mind clarifying the difference "Free-to-Play apps" (your term) and "must NOT be placed on the same level of free apps" (again your term).

     

    I am pretty sure I don't understand your post but the use of the above terms seems quite ambiguous to me.

     

    ?I have hated the "In App purchase business model" since it was introduced. I believe it was introduced as a way it was an attempt to solve both the 'download free-trial' problem and the no damn ads version. I think it went awry when marketing had a brain fart and said something along the lines of 'it would also allow developers the ability to allow users to buy a brass bra or chrome cod piece or even a new level in their fantasy worlds, which would justify marketings existance, err, uh increase revenues for both Apple and Developers.

  • Reply 16 of 21
    iaeeniaeen Posts: 588member
    dysamoria wrote: »
    Can we all just agree to treat a settlement as an admission of wrongdoing at this point?

    Fuçk No!
  • Reply 17 of 21
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,969member

    Ah, would you mind clarifying the difference "Free-to-Play apps" (your term) and "must NOT be placed on the same level of free apps" (again your term).

    I am pretty sure I don't understand your post but the use of the above terms seems quite ambiguous to me.

    ?I have hated the "In App purchase business model" since it was introduced. I believe it was introduced as a way it was an attempt to solve both the 'download free-trial' problem and the no damn ads version. I think it went awry when marketing had a brain fart and said something along the lines of 'it would also allow developers the ability to allow users to buy a brass bra or chrome cod piece or even a new level in their fantasy worlds, which would justify marketings existance, err, uh increase revenues for both Apple and Developers.

    FYI there are paid apps that also have IAPs.
  • Reply 18 of 21
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JoshA View Post

     

    Your comment is stupid, these Apps were not up front honest about their costs involved.

    By categorizing them as free, many people including me would download them only to realize later their use is very limited without paying a fee.  I deleted them immediately when a fee was needed, but my time involved was wasted.

    That's misrepresentation of a product, which Apple should have stopped as soon as they knew it was occuring.




    Sorry, but you are in no position to accuse anyone as being stupid after that post! 

  • Reply 19 of 21

    I think Apple has been pretty upfront anyway with the 'In App Purchases' text on these kinds of apps. It is upto the User to decide whether he wants to download and see how much is free.

     

    I downloaded SimCity BuiltIt and enjoyed it up to the point where there was no way to continue the game without buying some currency to build Schools and Police Stations. At that point, I deleted the game. I would gladly have paid $10 upfront to not hit a paywall during the game. 

     

    As a general rule, I avoid games that have the 'In App Purchases' warning and ones that require me to sign in.

  • Reply 20 of 21
    dysamoria wrote: »
    Can we all just agree to treat a settlement as an admission of wrongdoing at this point?

    No, because there was no wrongdoing from Apple.

    This settlement reflects the dumbness of our age, sadly.
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