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Europe: Apple could NOT care less about kids' in-app cash sprees

Our friends at Google on the other hand...

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The European Commission has put Apple on the naughty step over its apparent failure to tackle costly in-app purchases. But the EU body gave Google top marks for the suggestions it put forward.

On the back of mounting complaints, the EC earlier this year invited both companies for a chat about the way games and other apps can mislead users, allowing kids to bypass parental controls and rack up hefty bills buying gumble.

Google and Apple, along with the games industry body Interactive Software Federation, were asked by the EC to:

  • not mislead people over the true cost of so-called free games that require in-app purchases
  • to not encourage children to make in-game purchases
  • to adequately inform punters about payment terms
  • and provide email addresses for complaints and queries.

The trio were asked to provide fixes to these problems, and the EC said today that Google has played ball: the ad giant has implemented numerous changes, we're told.

"These include not using the word 'free' at all when games contain in-app purchases, [and] developing targeted guidelines for its app developers to prevent direct exhortation to children," the EC stated.

Default settings have also been adapted to ensure authorization is requested before each in-app purchase, so those unexpected four-figure payments on the monthly credit card statement don't materialize.

But Apple has sat on its hands and decided not to act at all, the EC claimed:

"Although, regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns, in particular payment authorisation.

"No firm commitments and no timings have been provided for the implementation of possible future changes," the EC declared.

The commission will continue to chew the fat with Apple about the changes it wants the company to make.

"Enforcement, including possible legal action, is in the hands of the national authorities which will now consider how to address outstanding legal issues," the EC added.

A spokesman for Apple told El Reg there are no probs.

"Apple takes great pride in leading the industry in parental controls that are incredibly easy to use and help ensure a great experience for parents and children on the App Store.

"The parental controls in iOS are strong, intuitive and customizable. And over the last year we made sure any app which enables customers to make in-app purchases is clearly marked. We’ve also created a Kids Section on the App Store with even stronger protections to cover apps designed for children younger than 13."

In other words, screw you Brussels. Back in January, Apple paid out $32m to people stung by in-app purchases in the US, thanks to an FTC settlement. ®

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