Apple told off for not protecting users from misleading 'free' apps

Straight to the core

Apple told off for not protecting users from misleading 'free' apps

The European Commission has criticised Apple for not making any "concrete and immediate" plans to stop people being misled by free to play games on its App Store.

Apple and Google were both approached by the European Commission to make it very clear to players what the "true cost" of free to play games are.

This is in wake of the US Federal Trade Commission having Apple refund £19.9m ($32.5m) to parents due to children racking up huge bills through in-app purchases (IAPs).

Google apparently has a number of changes for Google Play that address these kinds of problems, which are due to arrive in September.

Bad apples

Apple, however, hasn't satisfied the demands of the European Commission on this matter.

As reported by the BBC, the Commission issued the following statement regarding Apple's inaction:

"Regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorisation."

"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."

"CPC [consumer protection co-operation] authorities will continue to engage with Apple to ensure that it provides specific details of changes required and put its practices into line with the common position."

Clash of Clans

An Apple spokesperson responded to the Commission's criticism by saying that it's "doing more than others" to protect parents. They pointed out the parental controls available to parents on iOS devices.

"These controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry," the Apple spokesperson 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."

Rule book

We reported earlier this year on how the European Commission asked Google, Apple, Amazon, and other app store vendors to follow a series of guidelines.

These were meant to protect parents and stop children making accidental purchases while playing mobile games.

The guidelines particularly hammered down on the use of the word "free" in app stores.

"The use of the word 'free' (or similar unequivocal terms) as such, and without any appropriate qualifications, should only be allowed for games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other words which contain no possibility of making in-app purchases, not even on an optional basis," the European Commission stated.

The gist of the European Commission's expectations from app store vendors is to ensure players are not misled.

This means that it should be made clear which games contain IAPs. It also means the default settings of smartphones and tablets shouldn't be to authorise all IAPs.

With its criticism of Apple this week, it's clear that the European Commission is not messing around, and expects immediate action.

Hopefully, Apple will satisfy the demands regarding payment authorisation that were raised sooner rather than later.