updated 11:39 am EST, Thu February 27, 2014
Europe asks for safeguards to prevent accidental purchases
Apple and Google will soon be meeting with the European Commission to talk about problems with in-app purchases, according to a press release from the political body. The two companies will be asked to provide measures to protect customers, primarily parents, from accidental in-app purchases. A number of game developers publishing to the iOS App Store or Google Play have been accused of marketing "free" games that lure and/or deceive kids into buying digital items and currency; Apple and Google have sometimes been blamed as lax about putting up barriers to those purchases.
"Consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases," reads a statement by Consumer Policy 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."
With Apple, the main issue has typically been Apple ID verification, since in the past some apps exploited a 15-minute window during which a second verification wasn't necessary. This meant that a parent could download an app for a child, leave them alone, and end up with tens or even hundreds or thousands of dollars on their iTunes accounts, especially if an app didn't make it clear that buying digital goods cost real money.
In January, Apple was ordered to pay a $32.5 million settlement over the matter by the US Federal Trade Commission. An internal memo from Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that the company has received some 37,000 claims about illegitimate purchases, and that the FTC ordered it to close App Store loopholes by March 31st.