Apple being investigated over misleading ‘freemium’ apps



If you’re an iOS gamer, chances are you’re fed up of games loaded to the gunwales with in-app purchases. The so-called “freemium” trend for games is annoying for two main reasons: One, in many cases it makes games virtually unplayable if you won’t shell out the extra cash for IAPs. Two, it’s misleading because the games aren’t really “free” at all, any more than you could say that it’s free to go to the theater, but you have to pay cash if you want to actually watch a movie.

It’s this second point that antitrust authorities in Italy are taken issue with, under the heading of unfair commercial practices. They’re investigating Apple, Google and Amazon, alongside French game developer Gameloft, for allegedly misleading customers by advertising mobile game apps as free, when they actually require purchases in order to be played beyond a certain point.

“Consumers could wrongly believe that the game is entirely free and, in any case, that they would know in advance the full costs of the game,” the antitrust watchdog said in a statement. “Moreover, insufficient information seems to be provided to consumers about the settings needed to stop or limit the purchases within the app.”

Apple, as usual, hasn’t commented on the issue, while Gameloft says that it is looking into the complaint.

According to authorities, the investigation could take between 7 and 8 months to conclude — with the maximum fine levied against each of the companies named being in the region of 5 million euros ($6.9 million).

This isn’t the first time Apple has been involved with a legal investigation concerning in-app purchases. Earlier this year the company finally settled a 2011 lawsuit with parents whose kids had spent insane amounts of money on in-app purchases within freemium games. Under the settlement, Apple paid $5 in iTunes gift cards to the parents who sued, while offering credit or cash refunds if the amount exceeded this figure.

Source: Reuters

  • The Gnome

    The cure for moronic consumers = blame Apple. Makes sense.

    Or maybe they learn to read the warning?

    I’m afraid for this world… very afraid.

    • imajoebob

      The cure for moronic commenters = actually reading the entire post.
      The complaint is that people have to pay to complete games advertised as “free.’ Like drug dealers, they give you a taste and hope that the fading rush will induce you to purchase more, even though they promised you a complete experience with the free version. It’s a deceptive practice, and it’s against the law in EUF countries..

      • sigzero

        You mean like shareware has been doing for years and years?

      • Phillip

        Lol totally slammed the gnome with his only point. Well done

  • Quentin Jersey

    Extra levels is one thing to charge for, but some of these games require that “powers” etc are purchased that you cannot complete the game without. So you sold me a game with missing pieces. Fail. DELETE.

  • sigzero

    They are not going to win. Shareware used to do the same thing. Pay to play beyond a certain point. Apple lists the in-app purchases in a side bar on iTunes so it is disingenous to say consumers are being “deceived”.

  • I’m Right You’re Wrong

    $5 in gift cards? This must’ve really made a real dent in their quarterly profits.

  • Phillip

    $5 in gift cards? Well there goes the company… I enjoy how big tech managed to play off their consumers like they are stupid and they get away with it. Apple is notorious for doing this, but Google is now also taking up the game.