Google to stop calling games that offer in-app purchases ‘free’


Editor's note: This article originally published on 7/18/14 but was updated 7/21/14 with comment from Google.

Soon, Google will no longer identify games as “free” in the European Play Store if they offer paid content or upgrades. The change is to pacify the European Commission, which announced new guidelines Friday for such in-app purchases.

In its Friday announcement the European Commission outlines changes it wants to see to in how app storefronts identify app upgrades:

  • Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
  • Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
  • Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent;
  • Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.

Google has agreed to some specific adjustments with the European Commission, including “not using the word free when games have in-app purchases, creating guidelines for app developers to comply with the EU law, time-framed measures to monitor violations of EU consumer laws, and changes to the default settings so payments are authorized prior to every in-app purchase.”

The company issued the following statement to Greenbot about the changes: “We’ve been working closely with the European Commission and consumer protection agencies for the last few months to make improvements to Google Play that will be good for our users and provide better protections for children.”

Google representatives stressed that this is a EU-only "pilot" and the changes aren't necessarily coming to the Play Store in the U.S. or other areas. But, the same representative said, "We are continuing to work on how we can be more clear with our users in every market where we operate."

Recently, the Federal Trade Commision initiated a lawsuit against Amazon over in-app purchases, seeking millions of dollars in reimbursements to customers. Apple settled a similar suit with the FTC, agreeing to $32.5 million in refunds.

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