National authorities have joined forced with the European Commission in an attempt to tackle in-app purchases after issues were raised regarding the nature and implementation of the free-to-play model.
The Consumer Protection Cooperation, which has been in communication with Apple and Google since December 2013, has explained that games advertised as 'free' shouldn't mislead consumers about the true costs involved, reiterating that they must be 'adequately informed' about any and all payment arrangements.
Google and Apple were also told to ensure that games do not contain "direct exhortation to children", and that all App Store and Google Play traders provide an email address so that consumers can contact them directly.
Changing the landscape of F2P
Google has already decided on a number of changes, with the firm preparing moving to implement them in the coming months.
Google Play aleterations will mean that games containing in-app purchases will no longer be able to use the word "free" on the marketplace, while payments will now need to be authorised prior to every in-app purchase.
Apple, on the other hand, continues to stall. The Cupertino giant has yet to make any changes, with the European Commission revealing that that "no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns [raised]".
Of course, Apple has explained that it will address the concerns in due course, but stopped short of providing a concrete timeframe for the implementation of any countermeasures, a move that the European Commission believes highlights the comany's lack of "firm commitment".
Despite the issues with Apple, Neven Mimica, EU commissioner for consumer policy, believes that consumers should focus on the positive changes that are already being made.
"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," said Mimica.
"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."
UK developer and publisher network, TIGA, has commended the European Commission's stance on in-app purchases, and hopes that UK policy makers will take the next step by pushing for an internationally consistent approach for IAP regulation.
"It is important to note that the EC recognises both the legitimacy of the free-to-play business model and its economic and innovative potential," said Dr Richard Wilson, TIGA CEO.
It's essential that all consumers, but especially children, are provided with absolute clarity of information.Richard Wilson
“It's [also] essential that all consumers, but especially children, are provided with absolute clarity of information and age-appropriate purchase mechanisms at the platform owner level.
"As the OFT noted, the UK market has made rapid and significant progress in these areas, so it is encouraging that we will see other EU member states following suit."
Despite the fact that TIGA findings show that 95 percent of free-to-play gamers never spend a penny, Wilson believes that a fresh, coordinated approach will help secure a bright future for the F2P sector.
“Our own findings show that 95 percent of consumers never pay anything for free-to play games. So given this is a model which generally delivers fantastic value for consumers, this coordinated approach will help protect that value, and ensure a bright long-term future for the F2P sector," explained Wilson.
“We now need the EU and UK policy makers and regulators to work for an internationally consistent regulatory approach towards IAPs.”