Although many apps are free in the App Store, a lot of them require in-app purchases to use all the functionalities of the program. The problem occurs when people don’t realize that they are being billed large amounts. According to one group, a lot of times these purchase trap apps are games targeted toward kids, who click on the costly material without knowing that there is a credit card fee attached to their actions.
“I know Apple is a serious company with the best intentions to make honest business and deliver super customer experience,” Ban credit card bait apps on Apple AppStore group creator Tobias Feldt said to Techland via e-mail. “Apparently somewhere down the line the values of Apple have not been honnoured [sic] and apps such as the Smurf game have found its way to the Apple AppStore without warning…. Apple has the power to send a strong signal to app. devs. – No hustling is needed to make a great business on developing and launching Apps.”
So far Feldt’s group only has 20 members on Facebook, but the problem of kids making in-app purchases without their parent’s permission isn’t new. AP wrote about a mobile game called The Smurfs’ Village, where some one-time purchases cost as much as $59.99. One mother was surprised to find a $66.88 charge from the “free” game her four-year-old was playing on her iPad. The app now has the disclaimer, “PLEASE NOTE: Smurf Village is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings.”
While Apple devices normally ask users to input their password before making a purchase, there is a 15 minute window afterward that doesn’t require you to re-enter your information. If a parent downloads the app and then gives their iOS device to their kid, their child can potentially purchase as much as they want for a long period of time without having to face any blocks. However, Andrew Butterworth of Brooklin, Ontario said that his five-year-old son racked up $140, and his iPod touch didn’t prompt the child for the password even though his father typed it in four or five hours before – well past the normal time window.
“He came to me all proud and said he’d figured out a way to get all these Smurfberries,” Butterworth said to AP. “And as soon as I saw the Smurfberries, I knew that he’d purchased them using my credit card. I was amazed that he’d figured out a way to do it, because I was sure that he would have needed my password.”
Feldt said he has no problem with Apple’s in-app purchase program, he just wishes there would be a more effective way to check purchases for adults and children alike. Though he doesn’t have a solution for the problem, he hopes that the company can find a way to resolve this issue. He believes that if Apple can assure users that their games are safe for children to play they’ll even get more customers. “If they could get this label……boy they will scoop the rest of the market and be able to hold it for long,” Feldt said.
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