Google agrees to new EC regulations over in-app purchases

Google has agreed to change the way it handles in-app purchases in order to prevent unwanted charges.

The search engine giant is responding to a request by the European Commission, which is investigating the issue of in-app purchases and has compiled a series of guidelines for developers and app-stores to follow.

Read more: Apple coughs up £19.8m for unauthorised in-app payments made by kids

By the end of September, the firm has stated that it will no longer label games as "free" when they include in-app purchases and payment verification will also be required before each purchase. The company has not yet confirmed whether these changes will only apply to Europe or if they will be enforced worldwide.

Apple has also agreed to the changes in principle, but is yet to state how it will meet the regulations specifically. In a statement to the BBC, Apple confirmed that it was already doing "more than the others" to protect consumers from unwanted charges, particularly through the upcoming iOS 8 Ask to Buy feature. This prevents children from making purchases without receiving parental approval first.

The full list of EC regulations includes that games advertised as free do not mislead consumers about their true cost, that games do not directly ask children to make purchases and for it to be clear how payments are made.

"In-app purchases are a legitimate business model," EC vice president Neelie Kroes says, "but it's essential for app-makers to understand and respect EU law while they develop these new business models."

Read more: Amazon stands ground on kids' in-app purchase issue

The commission said that it would ultimately be left to national authorities to continue regulating in-app purchases, but that it would continue to monitor the situation. A number of legal battles have already occurred in the US, with the Federal Trade Commission recently taking Amazon to court over millions of dollars of unauthorised charges to consumers.