As Europe's "app economy" is booming the European Commission (EC) is meeting on 27 and 28 February with national enforcement authorities and large tech companies in order to discuss solutions to ensure consumer protection for apps customers.
EU online games' market consists of games advertised as "free", although they often entail in-app purchases. Often consumers are not fully aware that they are spending money because their credit cards get charged by default. Children are particularly vulnerable to marketing of "free to download" games which are not "free to play".
Following complaints from all over Europe, the European Commission will askindustry to provide solutions within a clear timeframe so as to ensure proper consumer protection for apps customers.
"Europe's app industry has enormous potential, both to generate jobs and growth, and to improve our daily lives through innovative technology," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "For the sector to deliver on its potential consumers must have confidence in new products. Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection. The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organisations."
At the meetings with the industry, national enforcement authorities across the EU will present their common understanding of how to apply the relevant consumer rules in this area.
The issues raised by consumers and which will be discussed at the meetings are:
- Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
- Games should not contain direct exhortations 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 and purchases 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.
The meetings are an opportunity for the Commission and European Member State authorities to reach a common understanding with industry to address the concerns raised by consumers.