Apple switches word ‘FREE’ with ‘GET’ on apps following European Commission scrutiny

20 Nov 2014

Apple has removed the ‘free’ download button under its iOS and Mac applications and replaced it with ‘get’ after coming under pressure from the European Commission over in-app purchases.

The European Commission believes the ‘free’ label is an actual misnomer, misleading consumers about the true costs of the apps involved. Often parents discover the true costs when their kids click on in-app ads and purchases, leading to hefty and unexpected credit card bills.

Apple itself introduced Family Sharing along with iOS 8, which allows up to six members of a family to share iTunes, iBooks and App Store purchases, notifying the credit-card holder when a purchase has been requested.

Earlier this year, the commission forced internet search giant Google to relabel apps that offer in-app purchases. Google has also changed the label of Top Free Apps to read ‘Top Apps’ and ‘Top Free Games’ to ‘Top Games’.

In July, the commission chided Apple for failing to take action on in-app purchases. The commission was responding to a large number of complaints in EU countries over the problem.

Emerging business models

As well as increased co-ordination among national authorities, a common position agreed was that games advertised as free should not mislead consumers to the true costs involved.

In particular, the commission ruled that games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or persuade an adult to buy items for them.

“In-app purchases are a legitimate business model, but it’s essential for app-makers to understand and respect EU law while they develop these new business models,” the then-EU commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said at the time.

Apple had said it would respond to the commission’s requests but gave no concrete timeline.

But now it appears Apple has acted and ‘free’ has been replaced with ‘get’.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years