EC investigation into in-app purchases underway

The European Commission is meeting with key players in the mobile industry with the intention of putting in place measures to protect parents from the hidden costs of in-app purchases.

Representatives from Apple, Google and other app developers will be talking with the commission today about how best to regain consumer trust after it was revealed that unauthorised in-app purchases by children cost parents approximately £31 million a month last year.

Related: App developers given two months to comply with consumer protection law

"Europe's app industry has enormous potential, both to generate jobs and growth, and to improve our daily lives through innovative technology," Vice-President of the European Union's Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in statement.

"For the sector to deliver on its potential consumers must have confidence in new products. Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of the EU rules on consumer protection."

One proposal expected to be discussed is the renaming of games advertised as "free". Over 50 per cent of the EU online game's market is comprised of games that label themselves as free, despite often only being free to download, not to play.

The most vulnerable to this type of marketing is children, leading to a number of complaints from consumer organisations calling for the end to direct exhortations to buy items in a game.

Related: A guide to disabling in-app purchases in iPhone games

"Consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases," said Commissioner Neven Mimica.

"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."