A common position agreed by national authorities and communicated to Apple, Google and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe in December 2013 asked that:
● 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.
Apple, Google and relevant trade associations were asked to provide concrete solutions across the EU to the concerns raised. The EU says Google made a number of changes but criticized Apple for making no changes to date.
Google has decided on a number of changes. Implementation is underway and will be completed by the end of September 2014. These include not using the word "free" at all when games contain in-app purchases, developing targeted guidelines for its app developers to prevent direct exhortation to children as defined under EU law and time-framed measures to help monitor apparent breaches of EU consumer laws. It has also adapted its default settings, so that payments are authorised prior to every in-app purchase, unless the consumer actively chooses to modify these settings.
Although, regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorisation, Apple has proposed to address those concerns. However, no firm commitment and no timing have been provided for the implementation of such possible future changes. CPC authorities will continue to engage with Apple to ensure that it provides specific details of changes required and put its practices into line with the common position.
Apple has responded to the statement with one of its own to the Guardian saying:
"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."
The spokesperson adds that "these controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry."