Apple App Store 'freemium' apps being investigated by Italian regulator

App Store

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

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Rich Edmonds

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Reader comments

Apple App Store 'freemium' apps being investigated by Italian regulator


For most apps, I have no problem with Freemium, it's like the old Shareware model: Try for free, or maybe use a reduced function version for free, buy it to gain all features.

It's the games that require a continuing supply of in-app purchases to keep going that are the problem. For example, "Puzzle And Dragons".

Gameloft's output seems to have slowed down a lot since they made most games freemium, which limits their appeal for me. In game currency is the worst.

Consumers are being mislead how? Freemium sucks but it's usually obvious if you are about to shell out real life dollarinos.

Now if there is something about PAID apps not making it clear that you need to shell out further dough to unlock full functionality, that would be something I could get behind.

Sent from the iMore App

Personally I think there should be 3 pricing levels:
1 - Free to try, limited version
2 - Purchase price to unlock all functionality
3 - Additional purchase for 'cheat' codes

That 3rd level probably wouldn't work though, unless there was a way to make the codes unique to a particular device -- otherwise they'd wind up posted all over the net. At the very least, initially free to try and then purchase to unlock.

Embarrassingly, I spent a fortune on Plants vs. Zombies 2 -- have since stopped playing it and no longer download games with IAP.

I enjoy apps that allow me to try out their function and have ads until I decide to pay for the full version later. Eventually I'll get fed up with the ads if I use the app enough and purchase a full version. If I can't preview it, then chances are I won't put down the m money up front.

It's been several years since I purchased an app for an Apple product, but I was the same back then. I find such freemium apps tend to have better support and are better developed than the free apps most of the time.

What I would like to see is every app available for free and in full for an initial period of time, say 24/48 hours then once you've had the opportunity to use the app, you're given the opportunity to pay for it with a single one off payment for the full app. Any minor updates made available free, although I personally would be happy to consider paying a reasonable fee for any significant updates. I don't mind so much paying for additional and premium features that you get to keep and restore and that you can sync across devices. However IAP for things like in game currencies and speeding up waiting times are nothing but absolute daylight robbery and I don't go near them. I believe freemium done properly is great for consumers, done the way it mostly is, just a rip off and in my view a threat to the App Store.

Sent from the iMore App

I very much dislike the freemium model. I've found I'd much rather pay for an app with full functionality than get some features free and then have to pay for more later. It's too much like the Adobe or Microsoft subscription services, which I am also not a fan of. Just let me pay for my apps once and if the app is good, maybe some time down the line when you've updated to a better version, I will pay you again. I don't like having to continually pay to use something I've already paid for, whether it be freemium through IAP or subscription. Both are bad models for software in my opinion.

I dislike freemium, (by freemium I mean in-game currency), games. However, unless you can't read, there is nothing being misleading on the various app stores. Does the Italian government question the intelligence of its own citizens, or are they just looking for a reason to sue someone? What is next, suing restaurants that charge extra for additional ingredients?