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Apple slammed by European Commission for failing to address misleading “free” apps

Apple’s “free” app policy is still misleading consumers after the European Commission [EC] criticised the company for not offering any “concrete” or “immediate” plans to stop users being duped by popular apps.

Related: EC investigation into in-app purchases underway

Europe wants Apple and Google, the two biggest distributors of apps on the continent, to make the “true cost” of games clearer and singled out Apple as the one company that is particularly averse to not committing to changing its ways.

“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 [consumer protection co-operation] 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,” read a Commission statement.

It added that authorities in member states could exercise the option to take legal action against companies that don’t comply with Europe-wide guidelines on free apps, and Apple has responded by stating that it is already implementing controls on in-app purchases.

"These controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry," an Apple spokesman said. "But we are always working to strengthen the protections we have in place, and we're adding great new features with iOS 8, such as Ask to Buy, giving parents even more control over what their kids can buy on the App Store."

The Commission released a list back in December 2013 that covered “free” apps and it is designed to stop consumers being hit with huge bills when, for example, a child accidentally spends huge sums of money inside an app that is “free”.

Google, meanwhile, was singled out for a smattering of praise by the Commission for the ways in which it has already agreed on a raft of changes to its in-app purchasing model that is expected to be implemented by September.

Its changes include not using the word “free” when a game involves in-app purchases, targeted guidelines for app developers to protect children, and new default settings that mean every in-app purchase has to be authorised.

Related: In-app purchases expected to drive mobile app revenue as downloads slow

Earlier this year Apple agreed to cough up some $32.5 million [£19.8 million] to angry US customers after the Federal Trade Commission ruled that various in-app purchases made by children were illegal.