Freemium game apps are the bane of parents and careless gamers everywhere — what seems to be "free" can quickly rack up a sizable bill through in-app transactions for additional items and content. It's an insidious practice, especially in games aimed at young kids, and ACCAN wants to put a stop to it.
The telecommunications consumer watchdog has called on the ACCC to take action against apps that are advertised as free despite aggressively advertising in-app purchases which are often required to play the game effectively.
"It’s not OK to advertise a game as free and then structure the game so the user must pay to keep playing," said ACCAN Policy and Campaigns Officer Erin Turner.
"All consumers, but especially parents looking to purchase appropriate games for their children, should be able to trust information provided about an app. At the moment this is not happening and it needs to change."
ACCAN singled out The Simpsons: Tapped Out, The Hobbit: Kingdoms, and Tap Paradise Cove in its complaint to the ACCC; all of which are advertised as being suitable for pre-teen gamers.
One specific example flagged by ACCAN involved players of The Simpsons: Tapped Out being forced to wait 90 days for a game event to occur — or they could pay $48.58 to access the event straight away (the money is referred to as "doughnuts" in the game). Similar wait-or-pay mechanics were also found in Tap Paradise Cove.
"Without paying money you could play for only a few minutes before having to set the game aside for hours or even days. Parents beware; these kinds of games are encouraging your children to spend hundreds of dollars on digital content," Turner said.
In its submission to the ACCC, ACCAN suggests that all apps should be required to include an infographic informing the user of any potential costs involved in playing the game. App stores such as Google Play should also take responsibility for accepting and resolving complaints about apps purchased through their Australian stores, ACCAN said.
You can read the full submission to the ACCC at the ACCAN website.
Do you think stricter guidelines need to be put in place when it comes to in-app purchases? Or do consumers simply need to exhibit some common sense? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.