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Google Play removing "free" label for F2P games with in-app purchases

EU rules that companies "should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved".

Google will no longer label free-to-play games with in-app purchases as "free" on its Google Play marketplace.

The change comes after the European Commission recommended that companies such as Google and Apple better inform customers, especially children, of the in-app costs that are often involved.

Google appears to now be acting on the EU's recommendations, as can be seen from this image of the Google Play store today compared with one taken earlier this month.

Earlier this month, free-to-play games are labelled as 'FREE'.
Today, these titles no longer have a price listed.

"Google has decided on a number of changes," the EU Commission explained in a new statement. "Implementation is underway and will be completed by the end of September 2014. These include not using the word 'free' at all when games contain in-app purchases, developing targeted guidelines for its app developers to prevent direct exhortation to children as defined under EU law and time-framed measures to help monitor apparent breaches of EU consumer laws. It has also adapted its default settings, so that payments are authorised prior to every in-app purchase, unless the consumer actively chooses to modify these settings."

But Apple has yet to respond to the ruling, and to date has not announced plans to change any of its policies.

"Regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorisation," the statement continued. "Apple has proposed to address those concerns, however, no firm commitment and no timing have been provided for the implementation of such possible future changes. CPC authorities will continue to engage with Apple to ensure that it provides specific details of changes required and put its practices into line with the common position."

We first heard of the EU Commission's investigation back in February. It follows a similar investigation by the UK's Office of Fair Trading.

Both studies come in response to a growing number of consumer complaints about in-app purchases, and in particular the accidental purchases of content by children.

A number of high-profile cases have hit the headlines over the past few years, as parents have found their children able to rack up charges amounting to thousands of pounds.

The EU Commission's full recommendations are as follows:

"Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;

"Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;

"Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent;

"Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints."

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