The activities of applications from Google, Apple, and even Amazon are being examined.
American technology giants Google, Apple, and Amazon, as well as Gameloft, a game developer from France, are all being investigated by Italy for having allegedly participated in unfair commercial practices with respect to their mobile app marketplaces.
The allegation was made by the Italian antitrust and competition authority.
Now, the investigation into the practices is going to determine whether or not those four companies should be deemed to be misleading to customers when mobile app downloads are labeled as being free. This is specific to the applications that are marked as being free but which then require a player to have to pay a fee in order to be able to continue to use the apps beyond a certain point in the game or to unlock certain additional features.
The Italian authority feels that a free mobile app should never require a consumer to have to pay.
The antitrust watchdog released a statement that said that “Consumers could wrongly believe that the game is entirely free and, in any case, that they would know in advance the full costs of the game.” They added that “insufficient information seems to be provided to consumers about the settings needed to stop or limit the purchases within the app.”
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Apple did not release a comment by the time of the writing of this article, but Gameloft issued a statement that it was conducting its own investigation into this issue, but had no comment beyond that. Neither Amazon nor Google could be immediately reached in order to obtain their response to this accusation.
An authority spokesperson explained that this investigation would likely take between seven and eight months to conduct and that if the companies are found to be guilty of the allegations, then the minimum fee that would be imposed on each would be €8.63 million.
This specific mobile app practice investigation follows closely on the heels of a previous one that was conducted by the European Commission earlier in 2014 which required companies to revise their rules for applications that can be downloaded for free but which then later require customers to pay for use.