Apple settles class-action in-app purchasing lawsuit

We’ve all heard the stories. A young child takes control of an iOS device, perhaps in ownership, or in a desperate parental attempt to occupy the child. The child has soon downloaded “Tap zoo”, or some other form of “freemium” app, and before you can say “Build an amazing zoo”, the child has racked up an iTunes bill of $4000.

Today, following a class-action lawsuit instigated by parents of such children, Apple has agreed to settle with 23 million iTunes users that “made a Game Currency purchase in one or more Qualified apps”. Presumably, all of those customers are parents of children who have racked up a considerable iTunes bill without parental consent. Apple will pay $5 in iTunes credit to all those involved, but its highly likely that the money won’t fall into the hands of customers until later this year, or perhaps even 2014.

According to 9to5 Mac:

The settlement still must receive preliminary approval from a federal judge. If that occurs, which it typically does in class action cases, the notification period will begin and Apple will begin accepting claims. After the claims are in, a judge will approve the final settlement and Apple will begin making payments — this would likely occur late this year or in early 2014.

Now, call my cynical, but everything about this settlement, to me at least, screams ridiculous. In-app purchasing is a well established practice. It’s unlikely that anyone who owns an iOS device, for example a parent, might be unaware that certain apps allow users, including their own children, to purchase content within an app. Apple now requires users to enter their password before making a purchase, but back in the day, there was a 15 minute window that followed entering your password, where a user could make a purchase without needing it again. Again, I can’t imagine why a parent wouldn’t be aware of this feature. Parents can easily use parental control settings to turn-off in-app purchasing. It seems to me Apple is taking the flack for parental naivety in the face of needless pressure. Furthermore, I can’t help but think that any parent willing to take Apple to court over in-app purchases, probably lost more than $5 to freemium apps, which makes the settlement figure seem frankly, ridiculous. Your child spent 500 bucks on Zebras? We’ll give you $5 next year to compensate!

Do you think it is Apple’s responsibility to prevent children abusing freemium apps, or is it the duty of parents to regulate which apps children are allowed to use, and which purchases they are allowed to make? Leave your comments below!

@TiP_Stephen

Via: 9to5 Mac

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  • ctrohin

    Dear Stephen, I am not one of those parents, but I do understand where they’re coming from. Whenever someone downloads an app, especially for their children, they have no idea if that app has in-app purchase or not. When your kid insists he/she wants a game, it’s unrealistic to ask the parents to check all the game options, especially when some of those in-app purchase options often appear after playing a number of the game’s levels. Just because you give the cashier your credit card to pay for dinner doesn’t mean he should also charge you for the table next to you.

  • TiP_Stephen

    @ctrohin In-app purchases can be turned off altogether via parental controls. Is that an unreasonable solution?

  • ctrohin

    @TiP_Stephen It is indeed a reasonable solution, but I’m not sure how many know about it. Asking for the account password on each purchase is what they should have done all along

  • ChrisPickering

    Whatever happened to engaging with your kids instead of handing them a brain numbing cellphone?
     
    You takes your choices. You pays the price!

  • ctrohin

    @ChrisPickering My kid solves puzzles on my smartphone when we’re driving long distances. Is that brain numbing, or should I let go of the steering wheel and “engage”?