On May 2014, the Italian competition authority launched an investigation for unfair commercial practices carried out by Google, Apple, Amazon and Gameloft, alleging that consumers were misled by advertising mobile apps as being "free", while they required in-app purchases in order to keep playing the app (freemium apps). In this regard, it was alleged that consumers could falsely believe that the apps are entirely free, and are not aware in advance of the full costs of the app. Moreover, the companies failed to provide consumers with clear information concerning "the presence within the app of purchase offers" and to explain in advance how to limit those purchases through the payment system.
Recently, Google, Apple and Amazon have reached an agreement with the Italian authorities, under which the companies will cease using the word "free" to describe freemium apps in the EU, as well as providing users with a warning inside the app when in-app purchases are being made.
The EU regulators have previously highlighted the following principles, in this regard:
- Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers as to 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; and
- The developers' email addresses should be provided, in order that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.