“Free-to-play” shouldn’t include in-app purchases, says European Commission

Thursday, 27 February 2014 23:23 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The European Commission has begun talks with tech companies and authorities to crack down on misleadingly advertised “free” games and apps.


“Consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases,” European Commission consumer policy commissioner Neven Mimica said in a statement published on GamesIndustry.

“National enforcement authorities and the European Commission are discussing with industry how to address this issue which not only causes financial harm to consumers but can also put at stake the credibility of this very promising market. Coming up with concrete solutions as soon as possible will be a win-win for all.”

The two day talks were inspired by consumer complaints about in-app purchases in free-to-play games, and are intended to help all three groups arrive at a common understanding, but that any issues will be followed up with national authorities. The European Commission said consumers need greater protection, and said the term free-to-play is often misleading.

“The use of the word ‘free’ (or similar unequivocal terms) as such, and without any appropriate qualifications, should only be allowed for games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other words which contain no possibility of making in-app purchases, not even on an optional basis,” the European Commission said in a statement of common positions.

In addition, the European Commission wants developers to cease using purchase prompts in games and apps targeted at children, to ensure explicit consent on any in-app purchases, and include direct email contact details for those with questions about the app ahead of download, use or purchase.