Apple stops calling games with in-app purchases 'Free'

After complaints from parents and authorities, Apple is renaming the "Free" section of the App Store to "Get." Apple is making the move to make it more transparent that free apps with in-app purchases are not always free.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File
The Apple logo is pictured on the front of a retail store in the Marina neighborhood in San Francisco, California in this file photo from April 23.

Apple has been in trouble for the way it handles apps in its App Store. Kids have racked up millions of dollars worth of charges through in-app purchases in apps that were advertised as being free. 

Now, amid pressure from the European Commission (EC), Apple is renaming its "Free" section to "Get" in the App Store. The EC says that the free labeling misleads consumers, since small transactions for power-ups and add-ons can quickly pile up. The EC is trying to get app sellers to stop inadvertent in-app purchases.

Over the summer, the commission forced Google to relabel its Play Store to better represent the true cost of apps. Google has removed the word free from its apps in the European Union. The EC has chided Apple for not making similar changes. Now Apple will roll out the changes worldwide.

Both Apple and Google require passwords when making purchases or downloading new apps, but once the password is entered the first time, Apple users have 15 minutes where they can make purchases and downloads without entering the password again. The EU is pressuring Apple to change that policy. 

In January, Apple agreed to refund $32.5 million in a Federal Trade Commission settlement to customers whose children made unauthorized in-app purchases. Google made a similar settlement with the FTC in September worth $19 million. 

The FTC sued Amazon in July for making it too easy for kids to make purchases while using apps. The FTC alleges that Amazon violated the FTC Act when it billed parents for charges their children racked up while playing games.

"We have continuously improved our experience since launch, but even at launch, when customers told us their kids had made purchases they didn't want we refunded those purchases," Andrew C. DeVore, Amazon's vice president and associate general counsel, told the Washington Post at the time.

Apple says more protections against inadvertent in-app purchases will be released for iOS 8, but for now, nothing is changing about the way you download apps from the App Store. The apps will still be free and will still offer in-app purchases, but renaming the sections is Apple's way of making that more transparent. 

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