If you have little kids, you know the story. They played with an iPad or other mobile device and ordered hundreds of dollars worth of apps from the iTunes store. It sounds funny until happens to your family.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took it seriously, filed a complaint against Apple and reached a $32 million settlement on behalf of consumers.
Now customers whose kids charged apps on mobile devices, without their parents’ consent, will get full refunds. Apparently tens of thousands of families complained to Apple that kids were making unauthorized purchases.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Apple made it child’s play for kids to order and order. The ordering system didn’t signal that after you enter a password there’s a 15-minute window to make a purchase.
The problem was compounded because the App store allows purchases to be made within apps.
So a kid could buy an app with parental approval and then buy additional virtual items, or currency used in games they already bought. These charges generally range from 99 cents to $99.99 per in-app charge.
The FTC says one parent reported that her daughter had spent $2,600 in the app “Tap Pet Hotel,” and other consumers reported unauthorized purchases by children totaling more than $500 in the apps “Dragon Story” and “Tiny Zoo Friends.”
As a result of the settlement with the FTC, Apple also will change its billing practices to make sure it gets permission and informed consent from parents before it charges them for mobile apps.
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez says, “This settlement is a victory for consumers harmed by Apple’s unfair billing, and a signal to the business community: whether you’re doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply. You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorize.”
GETTING YOUR REFUND
Apple is required to give notice of the availability of refunds to all consumers charged for in-app purchases. They are supposed to provide instructions about how to get the money.