Unintentional (or intentional) digital purchases have been a rising epidemic for parents who’ve allowed their offspring free reign over their iTunes login and credit card.
Last Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced that Apple Inc. will refund at least $32.5 million to U.S. consumers after ongoing complaints were made about charges concerning children purchasing mobile apps without their parents’ consent.
"In all, we received 37,000 claims and we will be reimbursing each one as promised," Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a letter to his employees.
The terms of the settlement also state that Apple will be required to alter its billing practices in order to obtain a form of parental consent before transactions of in-app content are made.
"Whether you're doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. "You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorize."
Ramirez estimated that children wind up spending millions of dollars in in-app purchases without their parents’ knowledge. One mother told the agency that her daughter, while playing the game “Tap Pet Hotel”, ended up spending $2,600.
According to Ramirez, the FTC received “tens of thousands of complaints” from consumers who incurred charges racked up by their children who, unbeknownst to them, made in-app/game purchases.
According to the FTC complaint, Apple does not inform account holders that entering their password in the App Store opens a 15-minute time slot for children to be able to incur unlimited charges.
"To be clear, the issue is not that Apple opens a 15-minute window for in-app purchases," Ramirez said. "What we challenge is the fact that Apple does not inform users of the existence of the window. When parents enter a password, they do not know the full scope of charges they could incur."
Wording for new Apple app disclosures haven’t been finalized, but refunds will be available for purchases through kid marketed apps; if you’ve made an accidental purchase, you’ll have the ability to get an immediate refund.
This isn’t the first time parents didn’t know their kids were buying apps without their agreement. In June, Apple wound up paying $100 million to parents who had no idea their kids were spending their money.
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