In-app purchases have been a controversial topic in the mobile market ever since they debuted on the App Store. Free-to-play game developers, which had formerly depended on advertising revenue to sustain their business model, were suddenly presented with an attractive alternative: sell in-game currency or exclusive items for real money to empower the players. Of course, not everyone sees IAP as beneficial to the market, which is why Italy’s Antitrust Authority is launching an investigation against Apple, Amazon, Google and app publisher Gameloft regarding commercial practices related to IAP.
According to the press release, the Authority’s “probe will verify whether the conducts can be regarded as unfair commercial practices: consumers could falsely believe that the game is entirely free and, in any case, that they would know in advance the full costs of the game. Moreover, insufficient information seems to be provided to consumers about the settings needed to stop or limit the purchases within the App.”
There have been countless tales of ill-informed consumers and hapless parents suffering at the hands of in-app purchases. The Antitrust Authority wants to ensure that the developers do not prey upon unwitting children in the future or convince consumers that a game which requires additional purchases for a complete experience is actually free.
ZDNet reports that the companies being investigated will have 20 days to provide the requested information and their defenses to the Antitrust Authority. If found guilty, each company could owe up to €5 million, although the fine will scale based on the company’s size.