European Commission Rules “Free-to-Play” Term Misleading

Reports are coming in stating that the European Commission has deemed the “free-to-play” term used for games to be “misleading advertising” when it also employs in-game purchasing options.

In an announcement, consumer policy commissioner Neven Mimica stated:

Consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases.

National enforcement authorities and the European Commission are discussing with industry how to address this issue which not only causes financial harm to consumers but can also put at stake the credibility of this very promising market. Coming up with concrete solutions as soon as possible will be a win-win for all.

Further criticizing the use of the word “free” in games, the consumer Protection Cooperation had words regarding the admission of any such payment options. They mentioned:

The use of the word ‘free’ (or similar unequivocal terms) as such, and without any appropriate qualifications, should only be allowed for games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other words which contain no possibility of making in-app purchases, not even on an optional basis.

In continuation, they also wanted any direct calls for purchases to be stricken from any game, which implies the addition of buttons to buy from stores. Also, any project using such a model should do so with explicit consumer consent and with an e-mail address present where customers can ask questions before deciding to buy or download a title.

It sounds excessively limiting for games that choose for a free model to apply further restrictions in which to recoup revenue. With all these barriers in mind, really only advertisement-based games would be able to retain a free model.

Then again, it is important for purchases in many digital formats to be free from any impulse buying mentality. It’s a tricky system to balance as it is.

What do you think of the call for more restrictions? Let us know in the comments.