With children learning that nothing is truly free -- after sapping their parent's checking accounts with in-app purchases -- Apple now is branding its freemium apps as "Get" instead of "Free."
Core gamers have long been wary of free-to-play games, branding the titles pay-to-win, and the Federal Trade Commission has been seeking to protect consumers from an epidemic of in-app purchases.
App stores drew the FTC's attention after consumers began complaining of a lack of financial safeguards built into digital marketplaces. With just a tap of a pop-up menu, children are able to purchase in-app items using their parent's checking or credit accounts. The issue then sparked a legal battle against Apple.
While premium apps would require an upfront payment of anywhere from 99 cents to about $15, many consumers were outraged to find their children had racked up as much as $500 in charges while using apps labeled "Free." The FTC said one consumer reported being charged $2,600 due to in-app purchases her daughter made in Tap Pet Hotel, a freemium game.
"The commission is focused on ensuring that companies comply with the fundamental principle that consumers should not be made to pay for something they did not authorize," the FTC said in a statement. "Consumers using mobile devices have the same long-established and fundamental consumer protections as they would anywhere else."
Apple agreed to settle the suit for $100 million, offering full refunds to account holders who were billed for digital currency and in-game perks they didn't authorize.
"Apple failed to adequately disclose that third-party game apps, largely available for free and rated as containing content suitable for children, contained the ability to make in-app purchases," stated the FTC.
Apple's new "Get" tags appear to be the latest of the company's efforts to remove the ambiguity that still surrounds in-app purchases. It may not be a big leap forward, but in branding freemium apps as "Get," Apple is making its case to regulators and consumers that it's looking to avoid unwanted purchases at the App Store.
While Apple and Google have worked out deals with the FTC over in-app purchases, Amazon has stood behind its assertions it built enough safeguards into its digital marketplace to prevent unwanted purchases.
"Pursuing litigation against a company whose practices were lawful from the outset and that already meet or exceed the requirements of the Apple consent order makes no sense, and is an unfortunate misallocation of the commission's resources," stated Amazon in its letter to the FTC.