European Commission: You should only call a game free if the player has 'no possibility of making in-app purchases'

A spade is a spade

European Commission: You should only call a game free if the player has 'no possibility of making in-app purchases'

As I type this right now, European Commission member states and the Consumer Protection Cooperation are meeting with tech companies, including Apple and Google.

They're not discussing releasing an army of drones, though. They're actually discussing free-to-play gaming.

And it's fair to say that the EC isn't messing about.

False dawn

Complaints from consumer groups in Denmark, Britain, Italy, and Belgium have led the Commission to start making some pretty interesting noises about F2P.

Probably the most interesting of them is the statement below, from a list of common positions shared by the Commission. It's basically about false advertising.

"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."

If it ain't free, don't call it free

The list also contains suggestions to cut out any direct calls to purchase in any title likely to appeal to children, and to ensure all IAPs are made with the user's explicit consent.

There's also a recommendation that all games that contain IAPs have a prominent email address displayed on their app store page so consumers can contact the developer or publisher directly with questions about the IAP before they decide to download or play the game.

"Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection," EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said to Reuters.

"The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organizations."

To whom it may concern

Those concerns are references to the raft of complaints received last year by parents of children who spent thousands of pounds on IAPs without their parents' consent.

If and when the 'app industry' gives some concrete answers, we'll let you know.