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Apple Tattled on Google to Draw FTC Attention to Similar Kids In-App Purchasing Issue

in-app-purchaseEarlier this year, Apple entered into an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, promising to provide $32 million in refunds to parents whose children purchased unauthorized in-app items.

As it turns out, while Apple was being targeted by the FTC for letting children make in-app purchases without parental consent, the company was attempting to get Google in trouble for doing the same thing. According to a report from Politico, head Apple lawyer Bruce Sewell sent the FTC a report highlighting the same in-app purchase issues in Google's own Play store.
"I thought this article might be of some interest, particularly if you have not already seen it," Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell wrote to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Democratic Commissioner Julie Brill, pointing to a report that criticized Google's app store over the same issue of unauthorized purchases. The previously undisclosed email was obtained by POLITICO through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Apple has long faced issues over in-app purchases, with the company first landing in hot water with the FTC after multiple parental complaints over children over-spending within apps and several high profile stories of children spending thousands of dollars. While most of the focus has been on Apple, Google too has faced the same issues, as children were able to make purchases for up to 30 minutes after a parent entered a password, much as they could in the App Store before Apple implemented specific changes.

Apple was not happy to be singled out by the FTC over in-app purchases, as the company had previously settled a lawsuit levied at it over the issue. Under the terms of the lawsuit, Apple had agreed to provide iTunes credit and cash refunds to parents, but the FTC demanded more.

At the time, Tim Cook said the FTC's decision to sue over a previously settled case "smacked of double jeopardy," but agreed to the terms as it didn't "require us to do anything we weren't already going to do."

Apple officially began sending emails to affected iTunes users and issuing refunds in March. Google has thus far not been targeted by the FTC.

Top Rated Comments

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6 weeks ago
Tattled? Is this place being run by children?!
Rating: 34 Votes
6 weeks ago
Apple wets diaper, blames Google

A spokespersons for Google issued this statement, “Apple is a poo-poo head”, and was afterwards put down for a nap.
Rating: 25 Votes
6 weeks ago
This isn't telling the teacher your classmate is being naughty, it's massive companies who should be treated equally by the likes of the FTC. So I don't see the problem with Apple suggesting the FTC look at Google over the same issues.
Rating: 19 Votes
6 weeks ago
'Tattled'... Just love the language this site is using lately :rolleyes:
Rating: 18 Votes
6 weeks ago
The situations were not really the same at all.

[*]Parent used password to install kid's app, handed device to kid.
[*]Unbeknownst to the parent, in-app purchases were ALSO enabled for the next 15 minutes.
[*]Child piled up hundreds of dollars in purchases, which Apple waited to aggregate and sometime later send in a receipt to the parent. (In my case, I continued to get receipts for several days after the 15 minutes was up.)

[*]Parent used password to install kid's app, handed device to kid.
[*]Kid hits an in-app purchase. Parent has to enter password AGAIN.
[*]Unless the parent had turned on a 30 minute timeout, the password was required for EACH in app purchase.
[*]Unlike with Apple, each purchase immediately triggered a receipt email, so even if the password timeout was enabled, the parent stood a chance of knowing.
Rating: 16 Votes
6 weeks ago
This doesn't really seem like tattling; it seems more bizarre that Apple was being singled out over something Google was equally guilty of.

Tattled? Is this place being run by children?!

Thumb resize.

Perhaps Freddie Lounds is behind this story.
Rating: 14 Votes
6 weeks ago
I'm glad to see the FTC taking action. But where were they when phone companies have been cramming, when teen-agers racked up massive messaging charges for years, when airlines slam with extra charges, ditto cable/sat tv companies that keep adding on charges? I'm on "do not call" and get solicitors all the time.

As far as I can tell, both Apple and Google are FAR LESS guilty than so many others. Both have been quick to remedy. Maybe that is why they rate so highly in customer sat surveys.

Now, T-Mobile's CEO is fighting back too, basically making the same case as Apple and Google.

Is Apple tattling? or are they asking the FTC to play fair?

Maybe the FTC should start with companies that have low customer sat ratings to find the real predators.
Rating: 12 Votes
6 weeks ago

As a parent I would be careful on how I let a child use my phone or tablet. These are now sophisticated payment devices. They could have access to banking payments, email, passwords. Just as I would not let them play with my wallet.

Yet another good reason why family oriented devices should include multiple user profiles, or at the least, an easy to turn on kid's mode.

Should at least consider the possibility that it was a Google agent in DC that drew the FTC's attention to this issue with Apple.

Yeah, it couldn't possibly have been some of the 28 million iTunes customers that Apple said they had to contact about refunds after the FTC order.
Rating: 7 Votes
6 weeks ago
I still don't see why this is a government issue. Its was clearly in the settings to disable the 30 minute window after entering a password. Apple should refund them because its the right thing to do, but I don't see why the government should be getting involved.
Rating: 6 Votes
6 weeks ago
another quality story from macrumors. keep up the good work.
Rating: 4 Votes

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