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Google to Rename “Free” Apps With IAPs, Needs to Scare Kids Away

Over in Europe, a handful of companies got a slap on the wrist for not securing their app stores properly from children. The European Commission (EU) is forcing Google and others in the selling business to better label applications that are free to download, but feature hefty amounts of in-app purchases. 

Apparently, a lot of children were downloading applications that were marked free, only to find themselves spending a ton of their parent’s money on extra lives and special power ups inside of games. Once the parents found out on their monthly statements, they rallied to make sure this situation would stop happening to children and parents.

From what is stated by the EU, Google will implement these changes by the end of September, which includes the discouragement of children buying applications, as well as implementing measures to monitor breaches of EU law.

American consumers probably won’t have to worry about having their “free” button renamed, but if Google thinks this new naming scheme is perhaps better, maybe we could see it adopted over here.

Via: Engadget
  • ethan

    U need google acct password to buy anything… Plus if u don’t want kids spending your money DONT ENTER CREDIT CARD INFO! then the kid will just see ” insufficient balance “

  • Gian Mario Tagliaretti

    From the tone of the article it seams that this a is a bad idea, in particular “American consumers probably won’t have to worry about having their “free” button renamed”, what is to be worried about having a more clear section? Just curious.

  • Shashwat Black

    stupid parents who don’t know how to turn on ‘Require password for purchase’

  • Trysta

    Hmmm…not really sure about the right or wrong of this. Certain IAP games (but not all) definitely are clearly preying on gullible people but I have a little brother who loves to take my tablet or phone to play games and I just don’t let him play unsupervised and have a password for purchases. Never had a problem.

    Still I wonder what this might due to the Freemium game market. Perhaps scale it back a bit? That can only be good in my opinion. Freemium (of the necessary microtransaction variety) has destroyed the great potential that mobile games once had IMHO.

    Also I’ve noticed a few developers who intentionally use the lack of IAPs as a selling point. And it has worked. I’ve bought several games that I know I probably won’t play often just to support a developer who doesn’t use IAPs. This trend might get stronger if truly free games are labeled differently in the play store.

  • JoshuaAuerbach

    Dear Ignorant Parents.
    If you are too lazy, stupid, or dimwitted to check settings…. what the hell are you doing making babies?

  • Eclipse

    How about not giving children that aren’t smart enough to not spend all their parents money, a smart device. Or how about parents start being parents and making their children think twice before clicking a button that involves money. I know if I had of had a smart device as child linked to my parents account and ran up a huge bill, well my rear would be red for a while and I wouldn’t have said smart device for even longer.

  • I let me kids play with my tablet or my phone lots of times. Their tablets are under my Google account so I don’t have to buy Paid For apps twice. Lay down the rules ahead of time. Put a password on the account where wrongful purchases can’t be made. Set forth the restrictions up front. If their is a problem, that’s where proper discipline from the PARENT comes into play.

  • Specter597

    Can’t you lock out IAP’s through the Google Play store’s fancy “Password Required” feature. It’s all high tech and stuff. I hear they have had “passwords” around for ages but I’ve never used one. But I bet if you used one this wouldn’t happen.

  • If Google added a “Pay-to-Win” category and separated those kinds of apps that would be wonderful. Granted I don’t really have many games on my phone anyway…

  • HarvesterX

    There’s an option in settings to require a PIN number before making any purchases. But…

    The real deal here us Google should be kicking every single game with iAPS off the Play Store. Those companies like DeNA and Gameloft can start their own store if they get pissy.

  • tiev

    Finally, something to tell me which games I’d actually want to download. I’d rather buy a full game upfront than be subjected to a bait and in app purchase for the next small bite of the game.

  • tekfr33kn

    Shame on you @Tim-o-tato for posting this article. You know we all get off on these kinds of controversies 🙂

  • enigmaco

    Why don’t parents put a password lock to prompt in app purchases? On my phone it prompts me every time for a password for an in app purchase. For a little inconvenience your wallet can be better protected.

    • Big EZ

      I would like a filter for the IAP games, but that still doesn’t/wouldn’t relieve the parents of responsibility. Their children will still be able to download IAP games and make IAP unless they put a password on your account.

  • Alex Boro

    iAPs and apps require passwords… don’t give your kid your password plain and simple

  • Michael Bassett

    Make a Filter, ANY IAP is filtered out, I would keep that sucker on 24/7.

  • sc0rch3d

    so what is considered in this category? for example candy crush has in-app purchases, but you can play the game and pass levels without any purchases. or is it apps that require purchases within the game to play the full game? or either…?

    • tekfr33kn

      That’s a great question. We’ll have to keep an eye on this to see what Google says.

    • PSU_DI

      I’m pretty sure it’s either, if you can make a purchase inside the game than it’ll get relabeled. The entire in-app purchase model is designed to get you to spend your money, the problem is that kids really don’t have a sense of what the cost really is, some packages in games are over $100.00, these games aren’t bad but there is no way that you should be able to spend more than a couple bucks inside a game to further your advancement. I don’t find it the parents fault that the game is marked free and yet there are hidden purchases available inside.

      • Big EZ

        I’ve seen some with IAP that cost thousands. It is still the parents responsibility. They can easily put a password in tthat’s needed for all purchases.

        • PSU_DI

          of course they could & should put a password on the account, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the games are advertised as free in the app stores. Also even with the password on the account it only takes the kid one time to remember what the password is because they got permission one time before. Their should be parental settings that allow the blocking of in purchased apps along with the ability to filter them out from the get go. All I’m saying is free to play is slimey marketing

          • Big EZ

            What is the point of having a password on your account if you give it out? If parents want to allow their children to buy something, then they can put in the password and make the purchase. Again, if the parents are irresponsible and give their child their password it’s their fault. Yes freemium sucks, and I generally avoid them, but Google has the tools in place for parents who want to protect themselves and not just complain because they are to stupid to use them.

          • PSU_DI

            I get your point, but the protections in place are obviously not enough to prevent people from being lured into making these purchases in these apps to advance themselves in these highly addictive games. If there are so many people complaining about this that the EU has taken this up than something is still wrong with the situation. These purposed modifications are good all around and will help clearly identify potential apps that can cost money, there is nothing wrong with labeling something properly.

            This type of thing happens all the time, marketers get crafty to make extra money and then rules need to put in place to protect the consumer. Look at the “free ringtone” downloads via a special text number that then enrolled you in a monthly subscription. eventually consumer protection caught up to this practice and it has almost all but gone away there was also a lot of changes that had to happen on the carrier’s end to fix this problem, but at the time people said the same thing, people just need to parent better but that’s really not the issue here, .

            You can even draw comparison to what has happened to cigarettes, back in the day cigarettes were advertised with cartoons and were marketed to be cool. now you rarely ever see a commercial for cigarettes and smoking in general is down significantly.

            I guess my point is that this issue isn’t about someone not being a good parent or not, it’s about protecting everyone from slimy marketing practices, and todays big issue is in app purchases, on games that are clearly marked FREE in the various stores that they can be downloaded from.

          • HarvesterX

            That’s a great reply and articulated well better than I could at the moment. A lot of these games do have what I consider ethical IAPs…like Dr Who as an example. Other companies though mostly those operating in Asian countries (few exceptions. Avabel is fine with it’s IAPs cause it doesn’t effect PvP or GvG) are as you a said cleverly crafting new ways to max one’s credit cards out AND these games are highly addictice .

          • PSU_DI

            See if it was just those Chinese/Asian devs doing this I wouldn’t think that this would be a big deal. The problem is that it’s the major dev companies that are leading the charge for IAPs. Look at Gameloft every single one of their games have IAPs, and most of the time the are driven to be an impulse buy so you can keep playing the game longer or to advance you further more quickly. Then look at EA, for example look at the Simpson’s tapped out game. If you wanted every character in the game with all the upgrades to the builds it could cost thousands of $$$. SuperCell, the makers of Clash of Clans use IAPs as a way to incentive you playing longer of advancing more quickly. and you can’t leave out Rivio, the makers of Angry birds, clearly the majority of these games are geared towards children and are marketed as free but the moment you are in the game you are constantly asked to make IAPs. Most of the time paying money in these games doesn’t even have a lasting effect and doesn’t end up getting you to the end of the game.

            Honestly the only IAP games that I’ve liked are Plague Inc which allows you to buy the whole game with all the upgrades included if you want to or you are free to play and earn the upgrades 1 by 1 for free. The other has been The Walking Dead which gives you 1 episode which is free to play and then you have a choice to buy the whole season or to just buy 1 more episode. Those models aren’t nickeling and diming people, they are just there compensate the dev for making such a great game and those types of IAPs I’m okay with, but I’d still prefer them to be labeled differently than Free.

    • Robert Paulson

      That would take way too much research (and playing the app itself). Just any IAP makes a “Free” app “Freemium” would be the simplest way to comply with the draconic state of EU.

    • SchwannyT

      I agree. Also what if you can buy add-on levels or additional playables or things that enhance game play, but aren’t required for the base game? I think we are really just scratching the surface of a very big question

  • tekfr33kn

    At what point do the parents accept ANY responsibility? I let my kid play with the phone but he has instructions not to touch anything that costs money. He knows that if he were to violate that rule, he’d be in serious trouble. Why must Google nanny parents who don’t set boundaries for their kids? So what if the devs lure kids with graphics. Use that to TEACH YOUR KID.

    • LongShot

      If the kids are young enough, I doubt they even realize what they’re doing. Lots of bright flashes and shiny buttons to press…shady business practice, indeed.

      • tekfr33kn

        If they are that young, should the parents be putting a $300 – $800 piece of equipment in their hands? Seriously???

        • antwonw

          You Sir, I am positive are an excellent parent! Most parents now days are so irresponsible and don’t care. They just stick a tablet in front of their kids instead of teaching their kids to have their own creativity and imagination.

        • Jeremiah Hawkins

          I’ve seen a mom give a kid a Note Tablet on the plane so they can draw with sketchbook or whatever. Kid also perfectly knows how to erase and everything.

      • jmashis

        No, it’s shady parenting.

      • Are you going to blame appliance companies for kids who touch a hot stove because it’s bright red? It comes down to parenting.

      • Anthony Tyson

        Until they click the button for the IAP that brings up the bland not shiny flashy IAP pop-up. This is 100% the parents fault. I have a 3 year old that knows what that pop-up is and not to touch it if it comes up.
        Edit: and when I say 3 year old I mean he’ll be 3 in a month.

        • Big EZ

          Not to mention that you can set a password so they can’t accidentally, or intentionally buy anything without your knowledge.

      • James

        The black and white logic on these responses astounds me. Yes, parents need to take responsibility. And yes, it’s shady to call something “free” when it really isn’t. Come on folks, ethics isn’t (always) an either/or game.

        • Big EZ

          I agree that most things aren’t black and white. However, Google already labels games with IAP, and you can set a password to prevent others from making purchases. I would like to see a way to filter apps with IAP, or at least a symbol when your looking at a list of apps.

    • chris125

      Never, parents always look to pass the blame to someone else. Reason our society is the way it is. We need better parenting instead of this BS all because some parent wasn’t responsible enough to tell their kids what not to buy or keep that off their devices

      • Omar Amer

        I think it is meant to dintinguish between Free* and Free. Some are more truly free than others. It’s like Dungeon Keeper vs Flappy Bird. Both are free, but one is Free with an * attached to it.

        • chris125

          That’s even more confusing than the current layout. They should just make it free and then have a section for games titled IAPs since clearly it saying it right under the title isn’t good enough

          • Omar Amer

            it wasnt meant to be a naming suggestion. I was just trying to prove my point.

    • jmashis

      On top of that, I’ve never come across any app that didn’t require a password to complete an IAP, as long as I had it set to ask for one. I don’t understand how this keeps happening.

      • TC Infantino

        I believe this is only if you set your Google Play Store settings to require a password for purchases.

        • oldnews

          Yes, it is. This option was done in response to children running up their parent’s bills like 3 years ago. The problem has already been answered, but a good bit of Europe is infatuated with nanny governing right now, for example, the right to be forgotten…

    • Michael Bassett

      I want this as a filter, category, selection as a parent for ME, I want to filer out all games with IAP because they suck.

      • mors

        I would love a filter and also a visual indicator in lists for IAP apps. I look for paid apps first, free apps second and if I absolutely really want some feature then I may possibly might look into apps with IAPs.

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      • Specter597

        As loathe as I am to praise Apple … the iTunes store has “In App Purchases Offered” typed right under the Free button so you can appropriately shun Games when desired. I’d love it as a category filter too though.

        “Ok Google … show me all the games that don’t have crappy IAP schemes.”

        • TC Infantino

          Google play does have the label “In app purchases” on the screen to d/load the app….but they put it Below the screenshots of the app, on the same line as the star rating and number of d/loads. I agree with you that Google could move that very important information to be just below the purchase/download button. Make it a seperate, filterable catagory and that would be even better.

      • chrismulliner

        Interesting. Have you seen any ‘free’ apps that DO NOT HAVE In-App-Purchases? There aren’t many. So this should be ‘rule of thumb’. I’m also a parent, and have not had any issues with this.

    • James

      Of course parents need to accept responsibility. But I absolutely agree with the pressure to make the marketing more honest and transparent.

      • jmashis

        Or the parents could actually read the app description, which will tell you if there are IAPs. Or they could read the reviews of people saying “You can’t beat the game without paying.”

        • James

          Why shouldn’t this information be clearly posted up front? Should users really have to dig into the reviews to realize they’re going to need to pay to get full use of a game?

          It’s absolutely justified to have IAPs spelled out clearly. If I choose to download an app, I have the right to know what I’m getting.

          • tekfr33kn

            Let’s spell it out clearly then. Every IAP game already says “In-app purchases” on the web and Android versions of the Play Store. It’s clear. it’s up front. It’s at the top. If a parent chooses to hand over their phones to their kid with no instruction on what’s acceptable, then they get what they deserve. Yes, a 3-year old can understand that concept. If they can’t then don’t give the phone/tablet to them until they do. This is the most basic of parenting skills.

          • James

            No one is arguing against “the most basic of parenting skills.” But if something is not actually “free,” it should not be labeled as such.

            The “getting what they deserve” argument is just sloppy thinking. I’m not a parent, but I can only imagine what it’s like when I’m juggling a hundred different tasks with a screaming child and just need a moment to breathe.

            The point is, there is a big difference between free games and “free” games with IAPs. They belong in different categories.

          • tekfr33kn

            And that’s why it is ALREADY LABELED clearly. If you chose not to read the “In-app purchases” it’s like ignoring the fine print on a contract and then crying foul. That’s a Facebook kind of response.

            “I’m not a parent, but I can only imagine…” – I AM a parent. I do juggle a million things while raising my kid. That’s EXACTLY why I set rules. If my kid is screaming about playing a game on my phone, I take the phone away and he get’s to see what it’s like without it.

            Google already distinguishes between free and free with IAPs due to user outcry. The rest should be the responsibility of the parent. They shouldn’t have to hold your hand because of lazy parenting.

          • James

            So again, why are you so upset about changing the button? You agree that the apps are in different categories, why shouldn’t they be labeled that way?

            If you’d actually read my posts instead of just responding emotionally, you’d see I agree that parents should take responsibility. But this isn’t just about parents. It’s about companies engaging in clear, honest, transparent marketing practices. If it could be clearer, it should be. Are you really going to oppose that?

            And by the way, if you were really juggling a million things I doubt you’d have time to engage in a long debate on Droid-Life. Different parents have different levels of stress.

          • tekfr33kn

            It’s not an emotional response at all. It’s actually quite simple. Everything is already labeled clearly. It doesn’t need to be changed further. the EU is just reacting to whiny, lazy parents that got caught with a big bill and don’t want to pay it.

            At the moment, I’m logged in to work on one screen, responding to DL on another, watching my kid and watching two of the neighbor’s kids. Good rules and a little organization can accomplish all of those things. Parenting helps develop that skill too.

          • James

            You’re railing against irresponsible parenting. At the same time, you are paying attention to two screens while also “watching my kid and watching two of the neighbor’s kids.” Really? If (god forbid) something were to happen while you were responding here, would you be “getting what you deserve” (to use your words)?

            The benefit of the doubt should always go to the consumer. It’s also a both/and situation. Parents need to be responsible. Changing a button is a easily accomplished. If it makes things clearer, what’s the harm in making the change?

          • jmashis

            A free game is still free if it contains IAPs. You can beat a lot of free games without the IAPs the they may contain. Furthermore, there are already TWO methods for preventing unwanted purchases. One, read and don’t install the game. Two, set up a password prompt. Why does Google need to to-do anything else?

          • James

            Again, what is the harm in changing the button. Free games and “free” games are not the same. Perhaps there should be 3 categories – truly free games, games that offer (but don’t require) IAPs, and games that require IAPs to fully play.

          • HarvesterX

            Yeah OK but really, ant multiplayer game with them and you won’t be competitive at all unless you shell out hundreds a month. Ive admined a major Rage of Bahamut forum for almost two years and played other such types til I got tired of It. I never paid the companies money though…I sold items I gained for real money often selling cads at up to $280. And I’d but resources off other players as well instead of giving them the money.

          • tekfr33kn

            My kid (he’s still in grade school) comes to me anytime he wants to download an app on his phone. It taught him to do that. He disobeyed once and his phone was taken away. He doesn’t do that anymore. Sometimes, as a responsible and caring parent, you have to be willing to say NO.

          • James

            No one is arguing with that. But this isn’t just about parents. It’s about companies engaging in clear, honest, transparent marketing practices. If it could be clearer, it should be. The benefit of the doubt should always go to the consumer.

          • antwonw

            Hear, Hear!!

          • jmashis

            So you’re asking why should parents have to spend three more seconds to read before they hand a 500 dollar device to child who may spend another 500 dollars?

            You don’t have to read the reviews but they’re there for a reason. And the IAP information is not buried. It’s plain as day right under the picture.

          • James

            So if you have no problem with the information being available, what’s the harm in changing the button?

          • David Narada Brown

            as a parent they should read the description anyway! if they dont thats just another bad parenting decision. they should know and understand what their child is being exposed to.

          • Daistaar

            The applications with IAPs are actually pretty clearly marked before you install the app.

          • James

            If you’d read my posts, you’d see that isn’t the issue. The issue is that these games are included in the same category as free games. There’s a difference and it should be labeled that way.

            “Offers in-app purchases” offers little meaningful information. Do I need to buy to advance past a certain level? Will my ability to play be significantly reduced if I don’t pay?

          • Daistaar

            I agree with that. There should be a demo section where IAPs can live or a section with DLC that can house apps with IAPs. While they’re at it, how about separating our downloaded apps by free and paid-for. Would love that.

      • antinorm

        Agreed. This reminds me of the “FREE* IPOD!!!!” ads from a few years ago.

    • Jeremiah Hawkins

      I know what it says for the parenting side, but I like this pass the “child safety” concerns. I don’t want to download a free app and be met with pay walls to advance a level or earn coins to buy upgrades. I want a relaxing game that is complete when I download it.

    • alan

      I don’t know about kids but I just want a glaring icon that makes it clear there are in app purchases so I can skip them in the Play store lists/searches. If my searches for a free or paid app fails then I’ll look at the descriptions of the IAP apps.

    • Big EZ

      I have it set so that I have to enter my password to purchase things. I don’t have kids, but from time to time I let a niece or nephew play a game. Parents can, and should do the same thing.

    • Daistaar

      Apple actually has figured this out pretty nicely and in iOS8 parents get notified if a kid attempts to buy something in-app. Instead of getting a buy request, they’ll get an Ask Permission option and the parent has to approve the feature. It’s actually a pretty good model I hope Google adopts.


      • Justtyn Hutcheson

        That is tied to their new “family” account settings. If the user doesn’t setup the child as a part of their family (for whatever reason), they won’t get those alerts.

        I agree though; I’d love a similar system for Google-wide joint accounts.

    • velocipedes

      Government doesn’t believe in personal responsibility.

      • Justtyn Hutcheson

        If people would quit giving good reason not to, that would be nice….

        Remember, the EU didn’t just look at this and say, “hey, yeah, let’s do this”. They were responding to the cares of their constituents, which is precisely what they are supposed to do.

        The inevitable logical conclusion of “providing for the common defense”, is that the government will eventually feel it necessary to protect people from themselves.

        • velocipedes

          The EU was not responding to some massive upheaval in public opinion. This was purely power play by a few politicians and bureaucrats. If parents are concerned that their kids are spending their money without their permission, you really think they’re going to go running to a bureaucrat, instead of just disciplining their children? How many parents were even affected by this? Few, I’d assert. Certainly not enough to sway public opinion, which is fickle itself.

          Yes, the logic of government is that it feels it needs to protect people from themselves. And therein lies the contradiction of government. Politicians have no better idea of how you should live your life than you do. They inherently have much, much less knowledge on which to base decisions about your life than you do.

          • Justtyn Hutcheson

            This move is a continued response to the class-action lawsuit brought against Apple in the EU, which ended with a multi-million-dollar settlement (http://www.engadget.com/2013/02/26/apple-in-app-settlement/). However, the primary goal of the suit was the implementation of some kind of mandatory labeling and/or deterrents to children being able to make such wholesale purchases in the first place. The European Commission subsequently decided that both the Play Store and App Store would be required to follow their guidelines, which is reasonable, as the “win” over Apple would have made Google an immediate target for a similar suit. So, in this case at least, the people got precisely what they asked their government regulators to do: protect them from their children.

            If people would stop voting for panderers, apologists, profiteers, and their ilk, then the government wouldn’t be run by those types of people. Politics was never, ever meant to be a career. It is supposed to be a civic duty, weighing the good of those they represent against the good of all, and acting accordingly. However, for some reason the people in power, stay in power, no matter how pissed off people are at them as a whole, because their representative is fighting the good fight against all them others who are trying to tear apart the country. While such blatant contradiction is allowed to remain, the system will continue to become more and more powerful, until there is nothing left. But, by God, the People will certainly be safe from each other.

          • velocipedes

            the people got precisely what they asked their government regulators to do: protect them from their children.

            The case was a settlement. It did not go to trial. Thus, there is no reasonable way to make the claim that the plaintiffs were asking government regulators to do anything at all. The EC’s decisions were a calculated move to assert more power over the market at precisely the moment when few would question their power grab.

            In actuality, neither Google nor Apple were liable for the purchases the children made. The parents were. Both platforms require the account holder to input a password to either make purchases, or to turn off the requirement for inputting a password. If the parents did not exercise due caution in securing their handsets, neither Google nor Apple is liable.

            So, in reality, the settlement sets poor legal precedent.

            If people would stop voting for panderers, apologists, profiteers, and their ilk, then the government wouldn’t be run by those types of people

            Right, if only people would vote for angels, we’d be governed by angels!

            Angels may be incorruptible by power, but angels don’t exist (at least in an electable form). People exist, and people are always and forever corruptible by power. The worst kinds of people are the ones who seek power over others. That’s why they’re the ones running for office, and the ones getting elected. The system is broken before it is even conceived.

    • Lucky Armpit

      It’s because most parents nowadays (unlike you) do not hold their children accountable for anything. Things like this don’t teach any life skills. Just like these ridiculous soccer leagues (for example) to where they don’t keep score and don’t allow cheering. What does that teach you? That there’s no penalty for losing? C’mon. If I were a kid nowadays and had a smartphone and was told not to touch anything that costs money, I wouldn’t have done it because I knew there would be real-world consequences for my actions.

      I applaud you for being one of the few parents out there that teaches children there are consequences for their actions. That’s the way I was raised too and I turned out just fine.

    • OhYeah!

      It’s not about the kids, it’s about honest advertising in the app store. It’s ABOUT TIME they did this!

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    • While i completely agree with you, and I go so far as to say proper parenting is of a dying breed. However, every time i try to purchase something in -app, i still get prompted for a password. But none the less, a big fat whoopin’ should do the trick. No coding or Play Store updates necessary.

    • Higher_Ground

      so what if they’re shady… is that seriously a question? No one’s saying they committed a crime here, so relax.
      Most businesses attempt to please their customers, and I don’t see why this one should be any different.

  • Ralph Bretz

    I think this is a good idea. I hate those free apps that you have to end up making a purchase in to compete. Shady business practice. Like having a bunch of hidden fees.

    • tekfr33kn

      You’re talking about a business model, ‘pay to win’ which is shady versus luring kids which is a nanny issue. They are two different things.