The European Commission is meeting with member state authorities and companies like Apple and Google with an eye to enforcing stronger regulation of free-to-play games. The European Union's executive body says it's concerned a substantial number of games are marketed as free but in truth entail in-app purchases that can be costly, a system that children are "particularly vulnerable to."

In a press release, the European Commission outlined the four consumer-raised issues that will be discussed in detail at the meeting:
  • Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
  • Games should not contain direct exhortations to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
  • Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements and purchases should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent;
  • Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.
As far the European Commission is concerned, the meetings present an opportunity to "reach a common understanding with industry," and it'll follow-up on the concerns it's raised with "any necessary action."

Free-to-play is a growing watchword on game studios' financial reports, but it's continued to attract controversy. Peter Molyneux, creator of the original Dungeon Keeper, lambasted the recent mobile reboot for its time-based paywalls, while Disney removed a similar system from Where's My Water 2 after it was derided by fans. Several games are drawing scrutiny for the cost of in-app purchases, such as the $100 in-game cars of Angry Birds Go.

The meeting follows last month's mandate from the Office of Fair Trading, in which the UK body detailed an April 1 deadline for games producers to comply with its principles. The OFT says games should be upfront about their costs and in-game advertising, and in-game payments are forbidden without an account holder's "express, informed consent."
[Image: King]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.