U.S. Regulators Looking Into Kids' Overspending on In App Purchases

Wednesday February 23, 2011 9:26 AM PST by Eric Slivka


The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has agreed to take a look at Apple's in app purchasing mechanism as complaints of children being able to spend hundreds of dollars on in-game purchases have continued to rise. The review is being sparked by a letter from U.S. Represenative Ed Markey expressing concern over how such purchases are being marketed to young children who do not understand the money involved.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz wrote in a letter to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that the practice of "in-app purchases" for certain applications on Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods raised concerns that consumers may not fully understand the ramifications of those charges. The Washington Post wrote about hefty charges amassed by children using Apple device games that public interest groups said should not be included in software geared for children. Some parents said their children didn't understand the difference between real and pretend purchases for items such as $99 barrels of Smurfberries on the Capcom Interactive game Smurfs Village.

"We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases," Leibowitz wrote. "Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications."

In app purchases generally require the same password authentication process as regular App Store purchases, a step that should limit children's ability to purchase in-app content as long as their parents have not shared their iTunes Store passwords with them. But Apple has enabled a 15-minute unlock period following password authentication to allow users to make multiple purchases without having to enter their password every time. It is believed that the majority of these occurrences of children racking up large in app purchases have come after a parent had recently entered his or her password (such as in downloading the app for the child) and then handed the device over to the child, at which point the child could initiate in app purchases without the need to enter a password.

Apple has reportedly been considering lowering the password window from 15 minutes in hopes of reducing cases of children being able to spend money within applications. The company also offers parental controls built into iOS that allow adults to completely disable in app purchasing, although many casual users may be unaware of the option's existence.

Top Stories

Leaker Claims New 13-inch MacBook Pro Coming as Soon as Next Month

Monday April 6, 2020 2:56 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Apple will announce a new 13-inch MacBook Pro in May with the codename J223, according to a rumor shared by YouTuber and leaker Jon Prosser. Note: it’s a refresh to the current 13” So the bigger 14” display upgrade is a big possibility— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) April 4, 2020 Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said Apple plans to release new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models with scissor keyboards ...

iOS 14 Could Offer Home Screen Widgets, Wallpaper Customizations

Saturday April 4, 2020 3:30 pm PDT by Frank McShan
iOS 14 could offer home screen widgets and wallpaper customizations for the first time, according to 9to5Mac and Twitter user DongleBookPro. Apple is reportedly working to implement widgets that can be moved freely around like icons on the iPhone and iPad homescreen for the very first time. The feature is reportedly codenamed "Avocado" and no other details are available. It was also...

Top Stories: Apple Leaks iPhone SE and AirTags, Apple Buys Dark Sky, and More

Saturday April 4, 2020 6:00 am PDT by MacRumors Staff
With the calendar rolling over to April this week, we yet again saw several leaks and rumors, most notably including Apple itself leaking some references to a pair of long-rumored products: a new budget iPhone SE and AirTags item trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Apple also acquired popular weather app Dark Sky, while Amazon's Prime Video app now allows...

Apple Music Was Second Biggest Global Music Streaming Service in 2019

Friday April 3, 2020 5:38 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Global online music streaming subscriptions were up 32 percent year-over-year in 2019, hitting 358 million subscribers, according to new estimates shared today by Counterpoint Research. Spotify was the market leader with a 31 percent share of total revenue and a 35 percent share of total paid subscriptions, while Apple Music earned the second place slot with a 24 percent share of total...

More References to Apple's Upcoming Low-Cost iPhone Appear Online

Monday April 6, 2020 4:38 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Further references to Apple's upcoming low-cost iPhone have appeared online, one on a Chinese e-commerce website and another on Verizon's smartphone trade-in page. Spotted by tech blog MySmartPrice, Chinese retailer JD.com has published a placeholder for Apple's so-called "iPhone 9" that includes a teaser image of a veiled smartphone, but other than that it lacks any particularly revealing...

The New York Times, IFTTT, Medium, and Other Apps Adopt Sign in With Apple Ahead of June 30 Deadline

Sunday April 5, 2020 7:08 pm PDT by Frank McShan
Apps with sign-in functionality, including The New York Times, IFTTT, Medium, and more, have continued to adopt Apple's secure Sign in with Apple feature ahead of a deadline of June 30. The deadline for these apps to support the feature was recently extended from April 30. Sign in with Apple, first introduced in iOS 13, allows users to create accounts for apps and websites using an Apple ID. ...

Apple Offers Employees Deep Discounts on HomePod, Beats Headphones and More

Friday April 3, 2020 11:14 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple is offering employees significant discounts on products that include the HomePod and Beats headphones, according to details on the deals shared by MacGeneration and 9to5Mac. Apple is said to be clearing stock of Beats headphones and HomePods, providing them to employees through an internal deals program. The HomePod is available at a 50 percent discount, dropping the price to $149.50,...

New Low-Cost 'iPhone SE' Could Launch as Soon as Tomorrow

Thursday April 2, 2020 4:06 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple's new low-cost iPhone is set to launch as early as Friday, April 3, according to a new report from 9to5Mac that cites a tip from a "highly trusted reader." The site says that while it can't be certain about the launch date, "Apple could reveal and begin taking orders for the new iPhone as soon as tomorrow." The iPhone 8 Apple is said to be planning to call the new iPhone, which is...

EPIX Available for Free Through Apple TV Channels Until May 2, No Subscription Required

Saturday April 4, 2020 9:28 am PDT by Frank McShan
EPIX is currently offering free access to its catalog of movies and TV shows through the Apple TV Channels feature in the TV app, and many additional services are also offering extended free trials. Upon navigating to the Apple TV app, users will notice that EPIX is listed under the "My Channels" section. Rather than offering an extended trial where users must first sign up, EPIX is...

iPad Launched 10 Years Ago Today, App Developer Reflects on Getting Access to a Top-Secret Prototype

Friday April 3, 2020 10:53 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
On the 10th anniversary of the iPad launching in stores, Agile Partners co-founder Jack Ivers has shared an interesting story about how his company managed to get in Apple's good graces and ultimately gain access to prototype iPads. The story begins in 2008, when Agile Partners released GuitarToolkit as one of the first iPhone apps on the App Store. The app used the iPhone's microphone to...