EU: Apple needs to do more to tackle in-app purchases problem

“Apple has provided no concrete and immediate solutions to tackle the problem of adults and children racking up credit card bills by making ‘in-app’ purchases on tablets and mobile phones, the European Commission said on Friday,” Julia Fioretti reports for Reuters.

“Following concerns raised by consumer groups in a number of European countries, the EU executive called in industry members, policymakers and consumer protection authorities to discuss clearer guidelines in February,” Fioretti reports. “Since then, Google, which owns the Android operating system for smartphones, has proposed a number of measures that are being implemented. These include banning the word ‘free’ when games contain in-app purchases and changing the default settings so that payments have to be actively authorised before every purchase.”

“But the Commission regretted that Apple, maker of iPhone, had not made any firm commitments on tackling the issue of payment approvals,” Fioretti reports. “‘No concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorisation,’ the Commission, the EU executive, said in a statement… Apple said it would address the concerns brought up by the Commission, although it gave no time frame for when it might make the changes, the EU executive said. ‘Over the last year we made sure any app which enables customers to make in-app purchases is clearly marked,’ said an Apple spokesman. ‘We will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns.'”

Read more in the full article here.


    1. What Apple device are you using? This has been the case for quite a while. To be honest, I appreciate the intent, but it’s quite annoying to me. Still it’s MY responsibility to PARENT my children.

      1. The problem is Apple is going for profit instead of doing the right thing. The default setting is to permit purchases for 15 minutes after you enter your password. If they change it [the default] to always require a password, even with say a “and change the setting to not require it for 15 minutes from now on”, the problem would be fixed.

        Now, it’s “Parent buys app for kid, and gives the phone to the kid to play the game, kid plays it, then a month later, parent is surprised by bunch of IAPs on the credit card bill”. At this point, it’s hassle Apple about maybe getting a refund [as it is entirely at Apple’s discretion that you get one], and then the parent has to figure out how to change the settings, if they realize there is a setting to change.

        1. Firstly Apple is in business for profits, just like any other company, and your response demonstrates that parents are aware of the 15 minute open buy window, so again, it’s ip to parents to parent and protect their children, consciously failing to do this should not make Apple liable for their abdication of this responsibility. I for 1 am happy to have the 15 minute window, and yes, I have 4 children, 3 daughters and 1 son living with me.
          3 of whom own IOS devices.

          1. It’s great that you are familiar with all the in’s and out’s of iOS, but many parents are NOT familiar with all the various settings of iOS, and with the default set to 15 minutes, Apple is counting on some people getting stuck in this situation.

            Both Apple and the various companies are counting on this exact situation for kids to ‘accidentally’ purchase $99 of smurfberries or whatever and with the hassle Apple puts up for refunds, only more persistent parents will get their refund.

    2. It ALWAYS asks me before a purchase. And if you watched the Keynote last month it will also now send an eMail alert.

      As for the kids continuing to purchase—Nothing a spanking or taking the phone away for a week won’t cure better than a password.

  1. surely this was addressed during the WWDC? Didn’t they show the family account ask for permission from a parents phone? A message advised the child that permission was being requested?

  2. Maybe it’s just me, but firstly one must have a valid CC on file and linked to the account in order to make a purchase, therefore the parent or adult whose CC is linked to the account bears 99% of any difficulties incurred. Secondly it’s been my experience that a password is ALWAYS! required to make a purchase, again, it’s the responsibility of the parent to PARENT their children, not Apple’s or the government.

  3. 1/ I activate Restrictions.
    2/ Since I don’t purchase on a daily or weekly basis, I
    remove my Visa card from the iTunes Store.

    I find that people wish to blame companies for there own ineptitude, and lack of understanding, wishing to foist responsibility on others rather than educating themselves in proper use. Governments and endusers… total B.S.

  4. I agree it is up to parents, Apple have done their part by adding the required restrictions, but the Top Grossing chart having 85% “Free” apps is a sad state for the app world.
    Apple promoting good games/apps would be a nice move too. I ignore the Editors Choice cause its always some stupid freemium crap

  5. It is amazing the number of people who do not have children commenting what parents should do. To those STFU.

    I think Apple has done a great job in iOS-8 and it MUST proactively engage and explain their approach to appropriate EU organizations (post WWDC).

    I also like the idea (sadly coming from Goog(evi)l that any app that has in-app purchase should not be flagged Free. Apple already provides a list of in-app purchase items but many people do not have the focus on reading every text on the page. The buy button should provide an indication to inform the potential buyer that there are other costs. This could be in-app purchase or licensing fees (such as Microsoft Office apps).

    Go Apple.

    1. I have an 18yr old, and he’s had a phone for ages. No purchases without consent ever, and he isn’t the best behaved in many other ways but he knows his ass is grass if he spends my money without prior approval. He always ASKS.

  6. EU is specifically asking Apple to stop advertising apps as “Free” when they are not. Google has agreed to do this, Apple has not. In this case I think it is shame on Apple. I am soooo tired of the bloody beggarware apps that is labelled as free in the AppStore. Why not just label them “nagware” – I don’t see the problem.

    1. I dunno, I see it a little differently. The actual app is free. I look at the in-game purchases as being upgrades, the upgrades have a cost associated and are not free. Again, where does the consumer’s responsibility kick in? At what point is the consumer culpable? The term “Let the buyer beware”, is not a new term and it put the onus of responsibility clearly on the shoulder of the consumer. Mama taught me that.

  7. I have an idea…………..and maybe it’s a bit on the crazy side. How about childless adults and parents exercise some discipline and pay attention to what’s being done with their credit/debit cards? How about not having an unchecked method of payment attached to the Apple ID until you want to buy something? You take out your card every time you purchase online from Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. Those of us with cards on our Amazon and Paypal accounts aren’t ‘accidentally’ overspending.

  8. But *why* does Apple feel the need to label apps as FREE when they are not?

    Like the photo app Faded. It cost 0.99 to download but to use the advertised features they require you to pay additional 4.99 in-app.

    Or the podcast app Overcast. Labelled as FREE but to actually use the features the author advertises require a 4.99 in-app purchase.

    How hard can it be for Apple to understand that some areas, like the EU, has stronger consumer protection in place that makes its consumers less aware of behaviors like those described above. Simply because they are not allowed – and prosecuted if someone tries …

    It should be very easy for Apple to see if in-app is enabled for the app and then simply disallow the use of the word FREE and to add a warning that any other price just covers download and that certain functions require additional payment. And to do this clearly in connection to the displayed purchase price – not on some other part of the screen.

    But Apple is probably under pressure from the gaming industry to allow the kind of mis-use we see today.

    1. The app is free. Like HayDay is free. I played for over a year before I bought one little thing for $3.99, and bought nothing since. You can play these games for free. Yes you’ll go faster through the game if you buy stuff but it isn’t necessary to play.

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