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When is a free app not a free app?

The popular Clash of Clans game offers many in-app purchases

Google will be changing the way it labels ostensibly free games that include in-app purchases, in response to a request from the EU. From September, games with in-app purchases will not be labelled as ‘free’ within Google Play. Additionally, new guidelines will be set up to prevent targeting children with encouragements to buy in-app purchases, in an effort to prevent huge, unexpected bills for their parents. This will also make things easier to understand for consumers of all ages. 

The popular Clash of Clans game offers many in-app purchases

Clash of Clans, the current 7th most popular free game on Google Play, offers many in-app purchases that could become quite costly.

Mobile gaming is a huge business these days, with even big name players like EA and Rockstar getting in on the smartphone action. But all may not be as well as it seems, as the mobile gaming world is about to change in a way that could prove more favourable towards the consumers.

In short, games that include in-app purchases will allegedly no longer be labelled as ‘free’ in Google Play.

This news comes as a direct result of an EU request for both Apple and Google to change the way they sell apps like that, in their respective app stores. The main point of the request seems to be to not mislead customers about ‘free’ games, when those games include in-app purchases, which can be made later, essentially the app is then rendered not free.

And so, after September, when you browse Google Play on your HTC One M8 or your LG G3 (or whatever Android phone you happen to be using), you’ll see that games like Candy Crush Saga are no longer labelled as ‘free’.

Another key part of the request is for Google and Apple to reduce messages that encourage children to buy in-app purchases, as it’s this issue that has caused a lot of parents in Europe to suddenly find that they have immense bills. Google will also implement this, as well as measures to monitor breaches of EU law.

At the time of writing, Apple has not laid out its plans to deal with the EU’s request, although iOS does already have strict parental controls built-in, and it remains to be seen if the company will follow Google’s lead on the labelling of ‘free’ games. Stay tuned for more news.

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