The Google Play Store recently bowed to pressure from angry customers and the European Commission over the use of the word ‘Free’ in relation to gratis apps that offer – or sometimes demand – in-app purchases in order to unlock content, or perhaps to progress in a game. "Freemium" apps, for short.
In a similar move, App Store apps that are free to download are no longer listed as ‘Free’, with the button now labelled ‘Get’.
The change takes place with immediate effect, and there’s no need to update your iPhone or iPad. Just head over to the App Store and tap on something that doesn’t have a price, like King.com's Candy Crush Soda Saga, and you'll be invited to 'Get' it.
Previously, apps that were free to download were listed as 'Free', but with the warning (where appropriate): Offers In-App Purchases. That warning still applies when you 'Get' apps with IAPs.
Back in July, the European Commission said it was “regrettable” that Apple hadn’t put anything concrete in motion, though the Californians did vaguely promise to follow Google’s example. Four months later, here we are.
To reiterate, here’s how the European Commission sees things:
- Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
- Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
- Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent;
- Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.
It remains to be seen if the new measures are enough to placate the European Commission, but things are definitely - for our money (pun intended) - a lot clearer.