TORONTO – Google will no longer label apps that include in-app purchases as “free” on the Google Play store, in an effort to prevent users from unknowingly racking up costly bills.
The move comes in response to meetings with the European Commission, which raised concerns about how tech companies like Google and Apple handle in-app purchases. The commission was particularly concerned about incidents where children racked up huge bills on their parents’ accounts.
“This is the very first enforcement action of its kind in which the European Commission and national authorities joined forces,” read a statement from the European Commission. “This is significant for consumers. In particular, children must be better protected when playing online.”
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Google has also agreed to set guidelines that discourage developers from marketing to kids.
In January, Apple agreed to refund US$32.5 million in in-app purchases to unsuspecting parents whose children racked up hundreds of dollars in charges from playing games.
One parent told the FTC her daughter had spent $2,600 in “Tap Pet Hotel,” in which children can build their own pet lodging. The game is free to download and play, but it takes in-app purchases for bowls of treats and sacks of coins for the game.
Google was also hit with a class-action lawsuit earlier this year from parents of children who made unauthorized purchases in apps.
Google will implement the changes in September.
With a file from The Associated Press
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