Ahead of the talks the main point is that 'free' or "similar unequivocal terms" should only be permitted use when they're "indeed free in their entirety," devoid of purchases.
Even optional in-app purchases would disqualify from using the word 'free', if the European Commission gets their way. Other measures consider explicit consent for purchases.
The move by the governing body that enforces EU law comes after continued pressure from consumer groups that many are still tricked by weasel-word advertising. “Consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases,” said consumer policy commissioner Neven Mimica.
“National enforcement authorities and the European Commission are discussing with industry how to address this issue which causes financial harm to consumers,” he continued. “Coming up with concrete solutions as soon as possible will be a win-win for all.” The EC wants to eliminate the exploitation of 'free' as a mere buzzword.
“The use of the word ‘free’ (or similar unequivocal terms) as such, and without any appropriate qualifications, should only be allowed for games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other words which contain no possibility of making in-app purchases, not even on an optional basis," said the Consumer Protection Cooperation and EC member states.
Other proposals include clear and direct contact information for the creators of these games, as well as making explicit consent needed for purchases and putting an end to 'Buy Now! or 'Upgrade Now!' titles likely for children.
The purpose of these talks is to foster a "common understanding" between national EU authorities and developers, but the EC are prepared to legislate if necessary and enforce rules through appropriate channels.
While free-to-play is quickly demonised, as many troublesome things have been done in its name, there are some redeemable features about it and there are MMOs that couldn't exists today otherwise. There are games though that would be better labelled demo than free-to-play. Hopefully this will stop 'cowboy studios' poisoning the well further.