The UK’s Office of Fair Trading has a bone to pick with so-called ‘freemium’ apps targeted at children. It’s no secret that more than a few parents have been shocked to find a massive bill after leaving their kids to their own devices, mommy or daddy’s smartphone in hand. The OFT is now looking into the possibility that youngsters are being “unfairly pressured or encouraged to pay for additional content,” or in some cases simply duped.
While the specific companies under fire were not revealed, Google will at least be a part of the investigation, as is Apple. Both host such freemium content in their respective mobile app stores. If the OFT determines that there indeed is something fishy going on with apps like Zombies vs Ninja — in one case a five-year old racked up a £1,700 bill in 15 minutes playing the game — the whole process would move to the next phase, which could include legal action.
The OFT is hoping the investigation alone will be enough to get to the bottom of what is going on and reach a better understanding of how developers and content stores like Google Play are leveraging freemium content. We’ll keep a close eye on this one, as it could have a very real impact on the ways developers can monetize their games.