The European Commission is concerned about this issue and last February convened several interest groups, industry members, legislators and consumer protection authorities, to discuss it. Since last December, Apple says it is working on it, but in the meantime Google has already begun to implement default controls to curb this problem.
And it is that, both the Google Play application store and the Apple App Store, have in their catalog of applications and games that are advertised as free, but that really require some type of payment to be able to unlock functionalities or new levels.
The Commission regrets that Apple has not made any firm commitment so far and underlines in a statement that many of the consumers who make these small purchases are children or adolescents, who do so without the authorization of their parents who then must face the bills.
Companies in the sector, such as Apple, could face legal action from national authorities, if consumer protection regulations are considered violated. The company said at the time that it would address these demands from the Commission, although without setting deadlines for it.
The app market in Europe is huge and growing. It employs more than 1 million people and generates annual revenues of 10 billion euros. Of these, it is estimated that 80 percent come from this type of in-app purchases.
Apple has introduced a clearer type of labels in its app store, iTunes, which specify whether free applications also offer this type of in-app purchase, and has proposed creating a specific email address so that law enforcement authorities can access to report possible infractions and discuss them with developers of the application itself.
The Commission estimates that more than half of the online games that are advertised as free allow in-app purchases which, although it considers a legitimate business, must comply with commercial regulations, as recognized by the European Commissioner, Neelie Kroes.
In one case in Britain, an 8-year-old girl was charged £ 4,000 for making such purchases at a children’s game that Apple later reimbursed her parents. This type of in-app purchases can, however, be disabled on most mobiles.