A lawsuit against Apple will proceed, as Apple’s request for a dismissal has been denied, according to recent reports. Apple had argued that the suit was no longer valid, thanks to changes made to its in-app purchase system. U.S. District Judge Edward Davila disagreed, however, and ruled that the suit would proceed to trial.
If you’ve spent much time in the iOS App Store recently, you may have noticed an increasing number of so-called “freemium” apps: apps that you can download for free, but then require you to pay a certain amount of money to unlock various features or, in the case of games, acquire items, in-game money, and the like. Of course, just like purchasing an app from the App Store, making an in-app purchase requires a password. Originally, though, your password remained in effect for fifteen minutes after it was input. While this can be handy when downloading multiple apps, it can create problems when you hand your phone off to your kid.
The freemium model is extremely popular with developers, as it generates far more revenue than simply charging for an app. Shortly after it was introduced last year, though, parents began to notice problems. It seemed that their kids were making in-app purchases – sometimes lots and lots of them – without their knowledge or consent. Some parents knew nothing about the problem until the got bills that ran into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It seems that between kids who knew their parents’ iTunes password and those who managed to make purchases inside that 15-minute window while the password was still good, kids were able to make lots and lots of in-game purchases.
Apple quickly introduced updates to close the 15-minute window and even allow in-app purchases to be turned off. By that time, though, it was too late. In April of 2011, Garen Meguerian filed a class action lawsuit against Apple over the debacle. In the complaint (PDF) Meguerian claimed that Apple did not do enough to make users aware that free games – many of which are deliberately designed to be highly addictive and to appeal to children –
had in-app purchases available.
Apple argued in court that the suit should be dismissed, since the conditions under which the complaint was made no longer apply. The judge, however, disagreed and the suit is scheduled to continue.
What do you think? Was Apple at fault for iPhone users’ kids racking up huge bills from in-app purchases? Let us know in the comments.