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back to article Europe: Apple. Google. Yes, you. Get in here. It's about these in-app bills

The European Commission (EC) has asked Apple and Google to send over some execs for meetings this week on reforming in-app payment systems. The EC wants to shake up the practice of in-game purchases by developers, which have in the past misled users, inflated bills, and circumvented parental controls on applications aimed at …

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Good. While neither Apple nor Google are directly responsible for the gross piss taking that is going on with in-app purchases (Dungeon Keeper anyone?) but they are in control of the ecosystems that deliver these apps and therefore they are in a position to do something about it.

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Anonymous Coward

Follow the Political Money

Google and Apple are among the Top Ten campaign contributors to Obama. End result, $32Million is a yawn, about an afternoon's profit for each of them.

Let's see how they can get the EU to bend over, shall we?

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I know I've said this before, but....

> neither Apple nor Google are directly responsible for the gross piss taking that is going on with in-app purchases

Bollocks. The root cause of this problem was cracked by the PC industry yonks ago: how on Earth do we let two people use the same computer without accessing each other's data? User accounts. Easy. And Apple have been criticised for not having user accounts in iOS since the launch of the iPad yet have consistently refused to consider them. Why? Because they don't want you to share an iPad with your family. They want you to buy one iPad per family member. The various inconveniences caused by the lack of user accounts are part of their business plan. They don't want to solve the problem of in-app purchases by upgrading their OS to include a basic 1990s feature. They want in-app purchases to be such a risk and annoyance that you solve the problem by buying a couple more iPads.

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Is El Reg running out of e-ink?

The articles are awfully light and hard to read.

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Unhappy

Re: Is El Reg running out of e-ink?

I was thinking the same thing.

Time to shake the toner cartridge El Reg - maybe get a few more pages out of it yet!

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Is El Reg running out of e-ink?

I've flagged this up with our front-end web guys, who are in the UK. I believe this is a bug. Do not adjust your set. Please stand by.

C.

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Re: Is El Reg running out of e-ink?

Roger that.

Rejoining holding pattern with delta A. Out.

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Unhappy

Re: Is El Reg running out of e-ink?

Whilst you're at it, can you please get them to fix the recent 'enhancement' that means if you don't have javascript enabled, every forum post has the date and no longer the time of posting.

The change generally to the date/time display (even with javascript enabled) is a totally unnecessary 'Web 2.0ism' that is just all show, no substance, and causes more frustrations.

I've always admired El Reg for their web site design (and been vocal about it) but some of the tweaks lately have just been annoying 'eye candy'.

And don't get me started on the story that uses an animated photo of a woman shaking her head as its 'icon'...

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Coat

Re: Is El Reg running out of e-ink?

Use less e-ink, it's better for the environment...

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Re: Is El Reg running out of e-ink?

It's horribly grainy but I think that animated image is Jen from the IT Crowd - so at least it is vaguely related. I have to agree though, I'm sure we left animated images on webpages to burn in a furnace MANY years ago for a reason...... oh yeh, I remember now - because they are horribly distracting to the eye and detract from the content.

Perhaps El Reg is trying to stimulate a RegCott (I'll leave readers to search the term Slashcott **warning** some search results may contain mild profanity).

El Reg is about the articles and the commentors discussions. Ofuscate the content behind bling or obtrusive (aka obnoxiously behaving) ads - and you risk doing a slashdot and fracturing the community.

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Re: Is El Reg running out of e-ink?

That bloody animated image means that I miss the first paragraphs of some stories where it appears on the right bar. Had to block the web address for the dancing Balmer one.

Agree about the date too. What wrong with detail? This is a tech site!

Phil.

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I understand this was especially a problem when iOS would "remember" your password for a while after using the App Store, and if you passed the phone to your kids during that time, they would be able to rack up in-app purchases. Though my impression was that this had been fixed.

If parents give to kids the password to the App Store account, then I would say they are at fault… Then again, many people have no clue that in-app purchases exist, so they simply don't know.

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JDC

Except it's not always immediately evident that your kid has the ability to pay.

I had to renew my daughter's Whatsapp account (all 0.89€ of it), which of course meant entering my credit card details. There was no message telling me that my credit card was registered for reuse, and could be used by my kid to buy whatever she fancied, including of course in-app payments. Worse: to deregister it I had to login to Google Wallet (using her password), find the credit card, and eliminate it. There was no option on the phone (that I could see) to achieve this.

I did consider leaving the credit card on the phone, and setting up a PIN - but Orange Spain in its infinite wisdom seems to have removed this option.

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Anonymous Coward

someone had to say it..

I notice Microsoft weren't invited...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: someone had to say it..

They were after the companies that actually sold apps and phones that count :) But you right, looks like a big empty void when M$ have over 200 000 apps, maybe they don't do in-app purchases or do they ?

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Anonymous Coward

Europe’s app industry has enormous potential, both to generate jobs and growth ...

so we're going after the marketplaces that make that possible...

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Mushroom

DEATH to in-app-purchases!!

Good, I get completely fed up with this new freemium idea that you can't really play the game unless you dig your hand in your pocket and buy virtual crap!

I was quite excited when I heard that Rollercoaster Tycoon is coming to Android, and then I was quite devastated when I heard it had been cancelled. I was not nearly as excited when I heard Theme Park was coming to Android because EA LOVE in-app-purchases. I would much rather BUY the game and play it, than get the game for free and pay 4x the cost of what the game should be in stupid in-app-purchases. I recently came across a video on YouTube that describes extremely well - why I am not alone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpdoBwezFVA

And if you are impatient watching the full 8 minutes - http://youtu.be/GpdoBwezFVA?t=3m12s will take you right to the relevant bit.... £69.99 "Best Value" for some virtual gems!!

EDIT: The video I linked to features heavy swearing - just in case you are watching it at work or something.....

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Bronze badge

Re: DEATH to in-app-purchases!!

Pay-to-win in app stuff is horrific, I agree!

I think the problem is that the core market for mobile games apparently are people daft enough to think 69.99 is great value! Finally I can remove those 10 tiles.

Let's face it; people who play - besides mobile - wouldn't mind paying, but they'll also rather play on a bigger system, bigger games. People who don't really play, don't want to spend money on a game... well until that game needs a few bugs for that little thing that'll really help.

The worst thing is how in-game purchases are coming into non-mobile gaming. Because now suddenly this is the standard way to game - as everyone know from mobile.

Default will become pay-to-win - the market will dwindle - the indies will gain power - revolution - meteor hits - mankind is dead... Might have gotten off track

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Re: DEATH to in-app-purchases!!

"Pay-to-win in app stuff is horrific, I agree!"

I would be the first to concur with this - as a game developer, I find what has happened recently (Dungeon Keeper, Candy Crush etc.) absolutely abhorrent.

However... (here come those downvotes!)

... when faced with the fact that the operating system that covers around 70% of devices worldwide has the highest maintenance overhead and a 90% piracy rate, what can a developer do to ensure that he can pay his bills/software licences and possibly get a couple of beers out of it?

This is a dilemma I'm all too familiar with right now, as my latest game moves towards cross-platform testable state. I've already decided that I will be using the free-trial-paid-full-version model on Windows Phone and iOS... but what about Android? On one hand, I'd like to reach as wide an audience as possible, but on the other, I'm reluctant to spend the time porting and supporting when I'm 99% sure I won't see any return for my efforts.

My current thoughts for Android is to release the free trial only - cracking it to get the full version will not be possible as the code and content simply will not be there. Once this is out - along with the trial and paid versions on the other platforms, and assuming that there's demand for the full version on Android, I'd then start a kickstarter - if the goal is met, the full version gets put out on Android for free...

... unless anyone else has any bright ideas on how to get round the Android piracy problem...

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Bronze badge

Re: DEATH to in-app-purchases!!

You are right! It's not easy to make money from apps, especially when they're easily pirated.

All in-app purchases aren't bad of course. Mainly it's the pay-to-win kind that's bad, or the insanely priced ones. Personally I don't see a big problem with cosmetic microtransactions, to give your character a hat or whatever, since at least it lets you play the game in a working order but just ads neat additional touches.

I take it ad-supported versions of android games also get pirated and have the ads removed?`Just a question that popped in to my head that I don't know the answer to :)

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Solution

Here's the regulation I would impose if I was the boss of everything:

  • Google and Apple must implement a centralised setting that allows the user to select if in-app purchases are to allowed globally.
  • This setting should be able to be PIN protected.
  • App developers will be required to comply with this setting.
  • Exceptions would be allowed and the user could either add these manually or the program in question could prompt for this on startup or when a purchase is attempted*.
  • If such a prompt was used, the app would be required to implement a "don't ask me again" option.

Any complaints against such a system could be distilled to: "we will lose money from people accidentally buying stuff they don't want or need!"

* - It really wouldn't be that hard or complicated - in the relevant area the phone would present a list of apps to scroll through and you just use those ubiquitous sliders to set them on/off as you can with data usage for apps on the iPhone. For the more 'automatic' exceptions, the app itsel would prompt you but then, once you accept, it should bring you to as OS (not an app) screen that explains what you are doing. I would also require a feature

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Solution

From my experience, Google's setup works largely like that. On the few times I've used an in-app purchase (usually to unlock a full version) it does indeed ask for my password and provide a don't-ask-again option. I haven't had occasion to check the UI to see if there's a global reset for it, but I would presume there is.

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Re: Solution

Apple already have an option to disable all In-App Purchases. It has been in General > Restrictions for some time now.

I'm quite sure that all apps need to use an API to do in-app purchasing, so there shouldn't be any way that devs can bypass this.

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Re: Solution

There you go - that's brilliant, thanks for the info! You can tell I don't use either device myself.

So, I suppose the question is - what's all the fuss about? Surely the answer is to just get parents to set their children's phones (or their own if they are letting them use them) to disallow in-app purchases and the problem disappears, right?

That said, I'm opposed to the free-to-play/'fremium' model as a rule as I think it presages bad things for gamers in the long run but that's a different matter.

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For my money, they should have a pin code on the Google/Apple account which you have to enter unless you've just provided your card details. Maybe allow purchases of up to £10 to authorise without pin unless they are occurring frequently.

Boom, no liability for Google / Apple, user isn't overcharged unless they are negligent in protecting their account, and the freemium sharks have to move on to easier prey.

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