On 18 July 2014, the European Commission (the "Commission") reported on the changes that Internet platform providers Apple (iTunes) and Google have proposed in response to the consumer law problems regarding in-app purchases in online games that were identified in the context of a joint enforcement action by the Commission and various national enforcement authorities across the EU.

The proposed changes are aimed to accommodate the four most important consumer concerns in the field. These four main issues, listed in a common position paper of the national authorities in December 2013, are the following:

  • Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the real costs involved;
  • Games should not contain direct incitements 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
  • Traders should provide an e-mail address so that consumers can contact them in case of questions or complaints.

Traders who fail to comply with these rules will act in breach of (i) Directive 2005/29/EC of 11 May 2005 concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market; (ii) Directive 2011/83/EC of 25 October 2011 on consumer rights; and/or (iii) Directive 2000/31/EC of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the internal market.

According to the follow-up report of July 2014, Google has decided on a number of changes which, once fully and adequately implemented, can be considered to be compliant with EU consumer protection legislation. The implementation of those changes is currently in progress and should be completed by the end of September 2014. Apple, in contrast, has according to reports thus far failed to propose concrete and immediate solutions to address all of the concerns and has not yet put forward a precise implementation date.

Enforcement, including possible legal action regarding outstanding issues, is in the hands of the national authorities.

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