The European Commission has requested something of Google and the company complied. And no, they didn't ask Google to stop snooping on WiFi passwords. Instead, EU countries have had a lot of complaints about games containing in-app purchases being marked as "free" games. Per the Commission's request, Google will no longer list a game under free games if it has in-app transactions.
The European Commission says that children making in-app purchases are the root of the complaint, which we are all very familiar with. When the number of complaints became significant enough by EU countries, the Commission decided to make the request to Google. EU Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica said,
This is the very first enforcement action of its kind in which the European Commission and national authorities joined forces. I am happy to see that it is delivering tangible results. This is significant for consumers. In particular, children must be better protected when playing online. The action also provides invaluable experience for the ongoing reflection on how to most effectively organise the enforcement of consumer rights in the Union. It has demonstrated that cooperation pays off and helps to improve the protection of consumers in all Member States.
Google said that it will comply with the guidelines set out by the EC and that by September, all apps will require verifying your identity and payment information prior to making a purchase. It should be noted that the EC requested Apple to make the changes, and the company chose to agree, but did not outline a timeframe on when the changes would occur. In fact, Apple said that it is implementing policies that secure these purchases "more than others" with things like the new iOS feature Ask to Buy. Interestingly enough, Apple blew right past the fact that it paid over $100 million in a lawsuit to consumers for this same exact thing.
For those curious, here are the guidelines the European Commission set forth.
1. Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
2. Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
3. Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent;
4. Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.
The goal here is to not mislead consumers, specifically parents, about the apps they are downloading. I guess in the long run that's kind of fair to the end-user. I'm curious if we'll see the same thing happen here in the States, too, especially considering the precedent Google is setting in Europe. As we mentioned last week, Amazon is under fire by the FTC about this identical issue. Perhaps we'll see more regulation and less perceived deception in the coming months from State-side developers as well.