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Google, Apple and Amazon are being investigated by Italian regulators over freemium apps. It's no secret that the freemium model for financing apps on mobile app stores have taken off in recent years. Simply doing a quick search on popular mobile platforms today will yield hundreds of results for freemium games and apps, initially free-of-charge to download, but sporting in-app purchases. The issue is whether or not consumers are being misled.

The investigation is being carried out by the Italy Antitrust and Competition Authority after the EU earlier this year called on companies to reform the use of 'freemium'. It's believed consumer confusion with the model threatens the long-term health of app stores and the economy in general. As well as Google and Apple, French game developer Gameloft is also being investigated on under similar concerns.

Said in-app purchases may include furthering the enjoyment of a fremium game, in the form of extra levels and other content. The maximum fine Italian authorities could place on parties involved is €5 million, which we're sure would be avoided if stores and developers alter the way these apps are marketed/sold.

Would you like to see some changes made to the freemium business model?

Source: Wall Street Journal

 

Reader comments

Google Play Store 'freemium' apps being investigated by Italian regulator

29 Comments

I think you have to be stupid, or a child, to be misled by the idea of getting something for free, then paying if you want more... that model is not new to the world, and this is exactly what these in-app purchases offer.

I would like to see a freemium but once you spend a certain amount the while app opens up and becomes free. For example real racing have it freemium to go to different levels of racing but once you open up all levels the game is then completely free. I don't mind paying for apps just constant paying for apps daily like real racing could cost £800 to unlock everything ridiculous should have a cap of £10

I think these bureaucrats have their heads up their asses.
Take a train from ROME to the main airport. If you did not read the sign saying you must get your ticket stamped in Rome before you go back tot he airport, you get a huge fine. Now THAT is something these authorities should be concerned about, not protecting stupid people from themselves.

Another example of nanny government. If an individual downloads an app and then spends THEIR OWN money on IAPs, then let them! That is not the government's decision. The Play store already tells you when an app has IAPs. If someone fails to read the description before hitting "Install", then that is on them. Besides, you have a 15 minute refund window -- which is a bit short, but if you don't have 15 minutes to evaluate an app, then don't install it until you DO have time. I am sick & tired of governments meddling in the actions of private individuals.

Its still 15 minutes, that page shows how people "in the know" can still get a refund if they try hard enough.

'The Play store already tells you when an app has IAPs.'

Does it really? I haven't looked lately, but there used to be a billing permission for that, which they subsequently removed. That was my only issue... downloading an app that said 'free', and then you found it wasn't really free at all. IMO, that's borderline false advertising.

Otherwise, I agree with you.

There is no information about whether you will need to make purchases to use the app or any information on the types and value of those. Either way there needs to be more app categories, "free" should be completely free (ads allowed probably). Need "TRIAL", "FREEMIUM" etc .

Google Just started a new policy about Apps having to List IAP's now in their description just a couple weeks ago.

This isn't nanny governance, this is just a case of someone wanting to get a slice of the pie.

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This is just one more example two issues with people today. First, people don't take responsibility for their actions. They spend $100 a month on Candy Crush and blame the developer. That's insane. Second, everyone wants something for free. These developers deserve to make money. If you don't think they do then don't spend money on their app and move on.

I will agree that some freemium apps are set up better than others, however, the only way to stop the ones that are truly a rip off is to not give them money. It's all very easy. Government doesn't need to be involved in every little thing. (steps off soapbox...)

At which point, you exercise your intelligence and judgement to decide whether or not to be ripped off. Your money, your choice, no one forces you into it ;-)

I've never made an in app purchase in a "freemium" game. I am a consumer and understand how the model works and frankly want no part of it.

I'm guessing (hoping) this is a problem mostly caused by children rather than stupid people. (Though in my opinion there's much stupidity in giving a child unsupervised access to a device with internet access in the first place.)

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While I might inclined to agree with some of you, it's not the case with Gameloft. I whole heartly believe $5 million fine on Gameloft is insulting, should be at least ten times as much, not to go into the way they treat their employees.
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I have played many 'fremieum' games and rarely spend money in them. I will however support a fremieum developer if it is a quality game and if I don't necessarily need to purchase anything to advance.

Now, if the game is labeled as free and you cannot advance without the purchase of additional content I believe that needs to be clearly stated up front.

But in the end it does boil down to responsibility. You cannot complain at all when you are the one with the power to say no.

Posted via Android Central App

I think if a game cost a few bucks you shouldn't have to continue to shell out dollar after dollar to enjoy the game.

Posted From a device that is perfect for me.

I think the model is fine. It's indicated when an app follows that model and it's impossible to "accidentally" something.

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What changes would I like to see in the freemium model? For it to disappear forever. One price to buy it and you're done. It worked fine for a decade and it can continue to work fine.
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Stopped buying into ANY freemium games after getting PvZ 2, Field Runners 2 etc. Realized that the fun is sucked right out the game after awhile. You spend and spend, get a new device, reset your device- lose it all. And for what? I only buy "pay once and done" apps and I've enjoyed my games a heckuvalot more. It affects your well being also. Deep down it eats away at you knowing you will spend way too much in the long run. All for nothing.

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Hhhmmm, not sure how I feel about a government entity getting involved. But the freemium model is bullsh!t. I started playing a game, bought about $20 worth or crap within a couple weeks, then realized that to continue playing their stupid game and remain competitive it would cost me more than a game for the Xbox One in less than a months time, plus continue to keep costing me money. F these a-holes. Charge me a one time fee and get it over with. This pricing model is nothing but a scam and I won't fall for it again.

It's about time someone's doing something about this freemium crap, there's so many games out that use poor graphics because they offer the game for so called free to play, but pay to enjoy game's. Is rather pay for my hands knowing I won't have to deal with any crap... There are some games that cost $3.99 & the review's comment on how the game is not worth it yet they love to mention the freemium version of the app's & would spend over $20 minimum for in -app purchases in a month on the free version of the game, plus it comes along with ads. If people pay for games then debs would realize that they can't be lazy making graphically lacking games because they know people would download them anyway, but if they know they have to compete for the people's money they will most likely make games fun & with updated graphic's. Got example the game epoch 2 is a game you have to buy, they use depth of field for blurred backgrounds, texture & lighting, & Moyer... While most other 3rd person shooters are just dull skinned characters. Then there's machinarium imagine that with ads & no updates, no zoom into screen in mid play. There's allot of advantages, or there could be slot of malware & data digging boys sending your mobile phones ID, contacts & you can imagine the rest.

I Am Sick of Such apps... I usually get apps without these in app purchases like GTA SA for example you just buy and play no strings Attached

Lucexpress...

My problem isn't with freemium. My problem is with paid apps that tack on in app purchases that are required to fully experience the game.