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EU praises Google, chides Apple over in-app purchases

In response to the European Commission's requests, Google says it won't use the word "free" when referring to games that contain in-app purchases.


Tech giants have been in the crosshairs of regulators both in the United States and overseas for their consumer protection practices. On Friday, the European Commission released a statement complimenting Google and chastising Apple in their efforts to curb in-app purchases made by children without parents' permission.

Google has decided to comply with the EC's requests by not using the word "free" when referring to games that contain in-app purchases. The search giant also said it would change its default settings so authorization is required before every in-app purchase, unless the setting is changed by the consumer. Those changes will be implemented in September, the EC's statement said. Google did not immediately return a request for comment.

The issue has turned into a common one for big tech companies with app marketplaces. In January, Apple settled with the United States' Federal Trade Commission, saying it would pay $32.5 million to any of its customers who were affected. The agreement also required Apple to change its billing methods to make sure it receives "express, informed consent" from users before it charges them for in-app purchases.

Underscoring the rivalry between Apple and Google, Apple's top lawyer, Bruce Sewell, tipped off the FTC about Google's similar behavior regarding in-app purchases.

The FTC has also gone after Amazon. Earlier this month, the e-tail giant said it would fight the group's lawsuit demanding policy changes and fines related to children spending money through apps on mobile devices.

In the EC's statement, the commission chided Apple for not giving any "concrete and immediate solutions" on the matter. Apple did not immediately return CNET's request for comment, but the company told Engadget that it has some safeguards coming out.

The company told the publication that in the newest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 8, due out in the fall, it will introduce a feature called Ask To Buy, which will give parents more control over what their kids can purchase. Apple also touted its efforts in making sure apps with in-app purchases are "clearly marked," and in creating a kids section in the App Store. The apps in that section, which are designed for children under 13, have even stronger purchase protections.

"Our goal is to continue to provide the best experience for our customers and we will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns," Apple said.