Upset parents are leading four member countries in the EU to push the EU Commission to look at consumer issues surrounding the growth of in-app purchases. The stories of kids racking up multi-hundred dollar purchases in a month on a game are everywhere. The ‘free-to-play’ games may be free on the surface, but in fact nearly force players to pay to progress in any meaningful way.
The EU has invited Apple, Google and others in the tech world for discussions on the free apps that have hidden costs. That Candy Crush IPO isn’t looking so appealing now. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding blasted the apps lack of honesty in the freemium business model, saying, “Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say she’s not on the side of app developers.
Here in the states, Apple has already put in better controls to prevent kids from racking up cell obscene in-app charges. Possible proposals include the removal of messages that encourage users to make the purchases in the first place. While that may get around the quick purchases, the likelihood that this gets around the freemium model is unlikely. You can look at games like Supercell’s Clash of Clans to see they do just fine without prompts plastered over the screen. You either grind the game into oblivion, or you go the quick route and pay.
That may be the route developers have to take in the future with the EU Commission looking to crack down on what they deem ‘misleading business practices’.