Here is some interesting news of use for app stores and app developers in Italy.

The Italian Competition Authority (here following “ICA”) following to the transposition of the EC Directive no. 29/2005 into the Italian law system (through the Consumer Code), is competent in the consumer protection field also in respect of unfair commercial practices. If a company tries to distort the economic choices of a consumer by, for instance, omitting relevant information, spreading out untruthful information or even using forms of undue influence, the ICA may act, also via interim measure, and impose fines which (since August 2012) can range up to 5 million euro (previously, the maximum was 500.000,00 euro).

ICA has just closed an investigation proceeding started on 15 May 2014 against iTunes, Google, Amazon and Gameloft ended with the acceptance of the commitments proposed by these companies in respect of some unfair commercial practices performed through an application for kids named  “Littlest Pet Shop” (here following, the “App”). Such commitments have been assessed as adequate to comply with the transparency principles set forth under the unfair practices legal framework.

In particular, the investigation was aimed at ascertaining the possible dissemination of misleading information on the costs to be incurred for the full use of the App (which was offered as free), including the case of the so called “In App Purchases” as well as to verify the presence of tools or methods to secure willful purchases by minors.

The ICA challenged to Gameloft another unfair commercial practice: (i) the inclusion in the App of language encouraging minors to carry out purchases or persuade their parents to do so, and (ii) the possibility of obtaining minimum credits based on the view of an advertising spot that proposes and encourages to download a new different game for children, advertised as free as well.

Itunes, Google, Amazon and Gameloft have undertaken to replace words like "Free" and the like, with expressions apt to make clear to consumers that the free download of the App can involve subsequent payments for its full use, in relation with In App Purchases. The companies have also proposed measures to allow consumers a more effective and conscious control over the means of payment associated with the device, in order to avoid undesired purchases.

In its decision, the ICA has welcomed the proposal of “spontaneous” commitments effective for the whole territory of the European Union.

In the next 60 days, the ICA will verify the implementation of the agreed measures while reserving the right to re-open the relevant proceeding failing the effective compliance with such commitments.