News Column

Apple to Refund Kids' In-App Purchases

January 16, 2014

Richard Mullins, Tampa Tribune

Jan. 15--Did your child buy something while playing a game on your iPhone? If so, you could be in for a refund.

Apple Inc. has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over what are called "in-app purchases." These are purchases made with a touch of the screen while playing a game or using some other kind of app. They're a big business, but a touchy one when it's unclear whether the person making the purchase is an adult or a child who may just think it's part of playing a game.

Often, they take the form of a special ringtone, or access to the next level of a game or other digital trinket. Purchases can range from 99 cents to $99 in some cases. At least one consumer mentioned in the FTC settlement said their daughter spent $2,600 within the app "Tap Pet Hotel," while others reported more than $500 in "Dragon Story" and "Tiny Zoo Friends."

"Apple does not inform account holders that entering their password will open a 15-minute window in which children can incur unlimited charges with no further action from the account holder," the FTC said in announcing the settlement. "Apple has often presented a screen with a prompt for a parent to enter his or her password in a kids' app without explaining to the account holder that password entry would finalize any purchase at all."

Under a settlement with the FTC, Apple will change how such purchases are handled on its phones, and provide refunds, totaling at least $32.5 million to consumers who were billed for purchases made in apps by children, but were not authorized by the phone's owner.

Further, Apple must proactively notify people whose phones made in-app purchases about how to obtain a refund. Even if payouts end up totaling less than $32.5 million, Apple must still pay the difference to federal regulators.

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Original headline: Apple to offer refunds for apps mistakenly bought by children

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Source: (c)2014 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

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