Apple and Google have come under the scanner from the Federal Trade Commission – FTC, for in-app purchases in their respective app stores and Apple has settled a lawsuit earlier this year, stemming from children racking up large iTunes bills with in-app purchases on games.
Apple has ended up with over $32.5 million in refunds to customers in settling the matter and is now taking an additional step is bringing about an awareness among customers that `free’ app especially games is a rare occurrence. The company is not listing apps with a `Free’ label any more but has changed it to `GET’.
The Apps that have in-app purchases available will now be `GET’ with small subtext which states `In-App Purchases’. Apple is not marketing apps as `Free’, on its App Store because of the pressure coming from the EU on the issue of in-app purchases and has changed its way of labelling apps in its iTunes as well as Mac App Stores, in a ways that the apps which have no cost to download, are no longer marketed as `Free’.On the contrary, when a user navigates to an app’s page, they are presented with a new `Get’ button which enables them to download the app to their device without any charges.
Free Download – Not Free to Play
With no public explanation made,Apple has gone ahead and made this change, though the re-labelling is due to the European Commission pressure which had warned Apple earlier this year that they could face legal action if their app policies were not changed.
According to the commission, the problem is that games labelled as `free’, could misled consumers on the true cost involved and should not directly market in-app purchases to children or pressure them in asking their parent to fund for the additional features.
Their main concern was for children racking huge bills by making in-app purchases within the apps that were labelled as `free download’ though not free to play. The Commission had stated that more than half of online games in the EU have been advertised as `free’ with many hidden costs with purchases which automatically debits from a registered credit card. Apple does not seem to be the first company to make this change in its approach to market apps which are free to download.
`Get’ Them But Not `Free’
Google too, earlier this year, removed the `Free’ labels from the Play Store, renamed `Top Free Apps’ as `Top Apps and `Top Free Games’ as `Top Games’, though the changes were applicable only in EU countries.
Apple seems to decide on not making an EU specific change but has re-labelled all the free apps across its App Stores with `Get’ buttons irrespective of whether they offer in-app purchases or not which was probably easier than making regional adjustment and is also a little honest about the nature of some of the apps like `You could get them but they may not be free.
Apple’s Top Charts sections at this point of time tend to be unaffected and there are still Top Free Apps as well as Top Paid Apps which are listed in both the stores.