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EC slams Apple for lack of action on 'misleading' in-app purchases

But praises Google for its impending changes
Fri Jul 18 2014, 13:35
Children With Tablet

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) has scolded Apple for it's lack of action on its "misleading" in-app purchase practices, while praising Google for its impending changes.

The EC said on Friday that has teamed with national authorities to put an end to the ongoing in-app purchases problem , which has lead to it receiving a "large number of complaints" related to inadvertent purchases of virtual crap by children.

EU commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica said in a statement, "This is the very first enforcement action of its kind in which the European Commission and national authorities joined forces. I am happy to see that it is delivering tangible results.

"This is significant for consumers. In particular, children must be better protected when playing online. The action also provides invaluable experience for the ongoing reflection on how to most effectively organise the enforcement of consumer rights in the Union. It has demonstrated that cooperation pays off and helps to improve the protection of consumers in all member states."

The EC has singled out Apple and Google as the worst culprits, and said that it is looking to the two firms to prevent games from luring children into the world-of in app purchases.

It has had a word with Google about such practices, following Apple's complaint to the FTC in the US about it, and the firm has already put together a list of changes that it will implement by the end of September. These include not using the word "free" when games contain in-app purchases, developing reworked guidelines for developers, and to better monitoring of apps.

The EC has called out Apple about this too, after the US FTC hit the firm with a whopping $32.5bn fine earlier this year, which it had to pay back to disgruntled parents whose kids racked up in-app purchases bills on their iPhone or iPad.

However, in its latest release, the EC has criticised Apple for its lack of further action, noting that - unlike Google - the firm hasn't proposed any changes. However, the EC did say that Apple has promised it will address EC concerns, although it hasn't yet made any commitments.

Apple responded, and said it does more than anybody else in the industry with regards to in-app purchases. A spokesperson said, "Apple takes great pride in leading the industry in parental controls that are incredibly easy to use and help ensure a great experience for parents and children on the App Store.

"The parental controls in iOS are strong, intuitive and customizable. And over the last year we made sure any app which enables customers to make in-app purchases is clearly marked. We’ve also created a Kids Section on the App Store with even stronger protections to cover apps designed for children younger than 13. 

"These controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry.  But we are always working to strengthen the protections we have in place, and we're adding great new features with iOS 8, such as Ask to Buy, giving parents even more control over what their kids can buy on the App Store. 

"Our goal is to continue to provide the best experience for our customers and we will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns."

The EC made no mention of Amazon, despite the firm having been sued by the FTC over its in-app purchases practices. µ

 

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