Looks like Google and Apple are finally responding to pressure around changing the way they deal with games that offer in-app purchases — thanks to some nudging from the European Commission, of course.
The EU asked both tech giants to change how they sell these game apps, specifically after receiving a ton of complaints from parents who likely had to pay hefty bills to Google Play and iTunes because their kids accidentally purchased all the things in Farm Heroes Saga. Or something like that.
One of the primary complaints was that games with in-app purchases shouldn’t be offered as “free” to download because they aren’t, in fact, really free. Google is already on top of this part of the EU’s requests. It will no longer label games with in-app purchases as free in the Google Play store.
The EU’s other requests involved not “directly exhorting” kids to make in-app purchases, providing complete contact information, and making payment arrangements completely clear. Google agreed to create guidelines for games that fall into this category so kids will no longer be encouraged to buy things without their parents’ permission.
Though Apple has agreed to address these issues, it hasn’t as of yet provided a timeline to do so. Previously, Apple was required to add alerts in iOS 7.1 that notify people prior to an in-app purchase. It was also forced to comply with an FCC order to refund $32.5 million to parents whose children made unauthorized in-app purchases.
Apple did offer a statement following the EU’s remarks indicating it has “incredibly easy to use” parental controls already in place. It’s also taken steps to make any game offering in-app purchases “clearly marked.” Apple also points out the Kids Section of the App Store has greater protections since the apps are created for those under 13 years of age in mind.
One interesting point is that Apple is planning on adding a new feature called “Ask to Buy” to iOS 8, which will give parents greater control over what their children can and cannot buy in the App Store.
It’s currently unclear if these new rules will apply to U.S. app stores, too.
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