European Commission seeking freemium app reform

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The European Commission is meeting with Apple, Google, and others in order to get a handle on the sometimes controversial subject of freemium apps. The commission is seeking reforms and regulations that make clear the costs associated with “free to play” apps and games and limit customer confusion.

The “freemium” model, which has quickly become a popular means of monetization for mobile apps and games, is so named for its combination of free access coupled with paid premium features and services. Such software has come under fire in the past after unsuspecting parents discovered their children had run up thousands of dollars worth of credit card charges via in-app purchases made without their knowledge or consent.

The European Commission is seeking the establishment of certain regulations that would prevent developers from taking advantage of younger audiences. This would include better control over how in-app purchases are made as well as a stipulation the developers provide a direct contact email within applications that utilize a freemium model.

Apple has already faced legal action in the United States over the matter with decisions coming in two separate instances (a federal lawsuit and FTC settlement). As a consequence, Apple has been required to repay $32.5 million in erroneous freemium charges.

The commission presented data that forecasts apps and games could generate as much as €63 billion over the next five years while citing analysis that shows in-app purchases by German consumers doubled in 2013 from the year prior (1 million were by users in the 10-19 age group). The total value of those purchases amounted to €240 million.

[via Reuters]