back to article Apple reveals payouts for parents of in-app purchase nippers

Apple has released details of the compensation it will hand out to parents whose credit card took a pounding when their kids made ludicrously expensive in-app purchases. The fruity firm sent an email notifying the 23 million people involved in a class action lawsuit what they were entitled to claim if their child went on an …

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Anonymous Coward

The moral of the story is don't listen to games developers. They will ask for feature XYZ and when they get it they will take the p*ss. Obviously this took Apple by surprise, they really should have seen this one coming.

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My darling daughter

Once managed to rack up a debt with Apple despite being 7. She had her "own" iTunes account with about £10 credit and managed to rack up a £42 in app bill... All because Apple thought she was good for the money because a kind relative had once topped up the account with a now-defunct Click and buy account. Of course it was rejected and apple pursued her (of sorts) to settle the debt, grrrr

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Re: My darling daughter

You should have let them take her to court and then apply for a personal bankruptcy order on her behalf. Then you could have sold the heart rending human interest story to the tabloid press.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My darling daughter

sorry, but that's a life lesson right there. what are you doing letting her have her own iTunes account? does she have her own mobile phone contract? credit cards?

there really ought to be a license for being a parent that you have to apply for and pass a test to qualify.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My darling daughter

It would be better to have a license for commentards before they post stupid comments like that.

I would say giving a child an account with a (presumed) set amount of money is a good "life lesson" for a child. I would never expect Apple to allow credit on an itunes account, as I doubt that poster did. Having their own account that could be topped up with gift cards for birthdays and Christmas and they decide how to spend the money and when is a sound idea.

It's little different than allowing a child pocket money and a piggy bank, or even a child bank account. Having them linked to your own iTunes account with the chance for unlimited credit via your card is not such a good idea.

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Re: My darling daughter

Apple pushed credit on someone who hadn't even applied for it? Report them to the FCA. If a bank tried that these days, they'd be in trouble. And if a bank tried that, not one fuckwit commentard would defend them. But, hey, APPLE LOVELY SHINY SHINY.

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Re: My darling daughter

Actually if you're in the UK then your darling daughter should not have been accepted by Apple as you can't enter into a contract under 16 years of age (unless that's changed).

Onus on Apple to verify applicants' ages afaik, their fault. Tough.

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Rol
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Re: My darling daughter

A child can make a contract if it is their interest to do so and that it is fair.

Bus fares, sweets from the corner shop, a bag of chips at lunch time.....

Children are protected from unfair or unnecessary contracts for extravagant items that have little utility.

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Re: My darling daughter

A child can make a contract in the very loose sense you're using the word, yes. In the slightly stricter sense in which it describes a binding agreement to do things in the future rather than merely right now, no, they can't. And that is obviously the sense being used in this discussion.

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Rol
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Re: My darling daughter

In a very loose sense you're right, but strictly speaking you're wrong.

If the cost of buying the usual in-game paraphernalia was pocket money and it could be shown the child got that level of utility from the purchase, Apple wouldn't be in the dock.

Apple are in the dock because the cost of their trinkets are far beyond their worth and they didn't act responsibly in limiting children's buying sprees.

Children can make a huge degree of contracts, far beyond your comprehension of the situation, however they are protected as minors by the courts, who will nullify contracts that are not in a child's interests, stating Ultra Vires, beyond their ability, which is, I assume, where your handle on it derives.

The reason children are perceived to be unable to contract for many goods and services is because the vendors understand only too well, the little darlings have every get out clause in the book at their disposal, pulling ultra vires out of the bag every time.

Proving a child needed and received sufficient consideration in a contract is a very shaky defence and so when dealing with children it is "seller beware"

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Paris Hilton

Re: My darling daughter

> the cost of their trinkets are far beyond their worth

So does anyone buy them? Worth is a relative notion.

Paris, obviously.

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Rol
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Re: My darling daughter

Worth in the sense of utility gained from buying them.

Whilst adults can squander their money without any recourse to legal means of reversing their misguided purchases after they realise the costs far outweighs the gains, minors have an immediate remedy, that Apple understands perfectly.

Hence they coughed up before a judge ruled on the actual value of the tat they peddle to kids.

and yes, worth, utility, value are all subjective, but that's why we have courts and judges, who set out to define these things when an objective guidance is required.

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Re: My darling daughter

Completely agree with your reply, nicely stated. (Though I admit to mixed emotions with regard to the original comment, given there ARE parents who do such genuinely appalling things even I sometimes wish a parenting license existed.)

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FAIL

Re: My darling daughter

Yes, yes, all very fascinating about contracts in general -- and far beyond my comprehension, I'm sure -- but the comment originally being replied to did not concern Apple selling stuff to a minor in exchange for money in an account, but in exchange for credit on an empty account. And no, they're not legally allowed to do that. It would be a criminal offense in the UK for Apple to offer credit to anyone under the age of eighteen; a fourteen-year-old may choose to enter into a credit agreement if an adult acts as their guarantor, which would of course involve said adult agreeing to act as their guarantor, which Apple certainly cannot just assume without any relevant contact with that adult. "We've got their credit card number, so we can give their child credit that no-one's applied for," is not legally valid.

Arguably (and it'd be great to see someone argue this in court), selling apps that are designed for and marketed to children and which have in-app purchases, combined with the assumption that it's OK to automatically create credit accounts attached to those in-app purchases even when no-one has requested credit, amounts to marketing credit to children, which is illegal enough when it's done openly and probably even more so when it's done by stealth.

Oh, but children can buy a bag of chips, you say? Well, that makes everything completely different in some other universe.

If you're going to be pedantic, at least be pedantic about the matter being discussed. Otherwise some pedant will pedantically point out that your pedantry is mistargetted.

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Rol
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Re: My darling daughter

I'm so tired. Maybe ignorance should be left to play with itself until it runs out of steam.

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Devil

Re: My darling daughter

So you're saying that it's legal to give credit to minors without their applying for it and without any adult agreeing to be a guarantor? Or are you just using the word "ignorance" in the hope that no-one will notice your silly mistake?

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WTF?

Ridiculous Fees

I can't work out why people would buy anything so pricey - the games that I've played have had £79.99 premium currency purchase. I just think - a "proper" game is only £40, these guys are having a laugh!

I think that premium currency purchase costs should be limited by Apple and co. The model is completely wrong at the moment.

Perhaps people should pay for new content, or even a monthly subscription for extended play, but when it could cost hundreds to play through the material in the "standard game"? ...

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Boffin

Only ever use vouchers

When my own darling daughter took her first hit of fruit-based lunacy I ensured that no payment method bar vouchers was used on her account, so the worst that could happen is that she squandered her "own" money. So far, so good...

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Why, oh why........

Even have a card on file at iTunes at all, I just buy some gift cards once in a while & stick those on there.

Even with a credit balance you still need to provide the password for every in app purchase, these parents must give kids the password & let them get on with it or give them their own account a stick a credit card on file, either way people who do this kind of stuff kind of deserve all they get (or lose)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why, oh why........

@Andy ORourke - Exactly - why have a free and open account for your ankle biter to use and then complain when the inevitable happens, probably saying that Apple are not protecting the chicldren. My kids don;t know the password specifically so that I can make the choices in controling what apps they have access to.

I have my CC details in my son's XBox Live account. He needs to put in the password for full games, so he doesn't know that password, but can get MicroSoft points whenever he clicks the "Confirm Purchase" button. All is good - he knows he can do it without any parental input because he did it once. And only once.

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Re: Why, oh why........

> Even with a credit balance you still need to provide the password for every in app purchase

Yes, now. But you didn't use to. Apple changed that in response to the lawsuit.

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Alert

Chest of Gems

When I was contracting, sitting next to another older colleague - a parent of 2 - we had the funny experience of him shouting out one day - after noticing that Apple had sent him a bill for over a hundred pounds, including one purchase of "£69.99 for a chest of gems" (googling, I've found it was game: Skylanders Lost Islands).

Pointing out that this was just a "recent" receipt and his children may have made more purchases, I showed him how to look up all your "past purchases". To his horror, his children had bought another "chest" previously - adding up to a lovely £140 of in-app purchases.

He wrote to Apple explaining the situation - and to all our surprise, they actually responded back with,

"Here is the money back sir, but rest assured, we won't be giving you the benefit of the doubt next time...".

Well done Apple (lol - but for our enjoyment, well done his two clever children in the first place ;)

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Re: Chest of Gems

His kids probably didn't realise they were spending money at all.

Lots of games let you "buy" stuff, but with points or other worthless currencies. I remember games where just going to a particular place would allow you to acquire items. That's not very different to the mechanics of emptying mum's credit card on in-game trinkets - The insidious bit of these in-app purchase schemes is that they piggyback on this idea of "game money" and replace it with actual hard-earned cash.

They way some games treat their users, parents would be better off giving their kid a cup of coins and stool next to a slot-machine...

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Re: Chest of Gems

Most kids have no concept of the cost of things.

Ask my 7 year-old niece what she'd like for her birthday. She'll probably say a pony, or some crayons.

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Despicable Me Minion Rush

Some of the costumes in Gameloft's Minion Rush cost over £30. A costume. In a kid's game.

Let that sink in for a moment.

These mercenary bastards are exploiting the loose rules governing in-app purchases to rip people off. I'm not surprised if there are class action suits.

IMO all marketplace accounts should be pin protected by default, and it should be possible to disable in-app purchase functionality on a per-app, per-account, and on a maximum spend basis. If someone wants to throw the switch on the defaults they can do so, but the default would do a lot to curb the worst excesses of these greedy companies.

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Pure greed

I can understand a purchase of one or two pounds for something that a developer invested time and money making, but the excessive amounts being charged are obviously targeted at non-financially savvy, usually young people who don't know any better.

It's pure greed, and Apple are complicit in that by allowing it to happen and by providing a 15-minute window by default after initial password entry in which the password is not required to be entered again for further purchases. Apple shouldn't be allowing anything like this in the first place, especially as they ostensibly review every app on their marketplace before releasing it.

To all those who are making money using this underhanded approach, I hope you don't sleep well at night. You're practically stealing from hard-working families.

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My Experience

My son managed £450 in a day, mostly buying diamonds in some game - it would have been more but he hit my overdraft limit. He had the password (saves me entering it every time he wants to try another game) but I wasn't aware my card was tied to the account; I've always bought him gift cards. Obviously at some point I must have used my card for some reason and forgot and somehow he hadn't tried to buy anything until that day.

Apple returned the money but again, stated they wouldn't do so next time. We didn't have any cash until the refunds came through and had to live on credit cards for the next week (family of six). If they hadn't refunded the cash it would have been a real problem.

There's no way to manage your account from the device which doesn't make things easy for you.

There's no way to use a card only for one transaction unless you manually delete it.

Deleting/changing your payment method is far from obvious.

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Happy

Re: My Experience

Report your card lost every 6 months, or sooner if you want. It's a free service stops the card being used, especially useful in a case like this where you forgot you had it linked, it's also good incase your card has been cloned. You need more than one card for this to be ok, but they tend to come within 5 days as the company want you to keep spending.

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Re: My Experience

If you make a one-off payment with a card no the Net these days, it is common practice for the company to keep the details on file and set up an account for you with it, without asking or even telling you. Common practice, but seriously dodgy. It's crying out for a legal challenge.

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Even bigger bill

One of the guys at work didn't find out that his 5-year-old son had spent just over £8000 in game goodies using his iPad unitl his credit card bill arrived. Luckily he got the entire sum waived, but only due to the goodwill of (I think) the game developer -- 'cos I doubt that Apple would have been so sympathetic, their response at the time was that it was your fault not not disabling in-game purchases...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Even bigger bill

8,000 is insane.How could they let you rack up that kind of charge?

I use to work for a website called Ifriends. webcam porn. Once you got over $200 in month they cut you off until you faxed them back a signed agreement with a photo ID.

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Anonymous Coward

Doesn't say if this applies to the UK or not, or is it restricted to the UK?

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"sorry, but that's a life lesson right there. what are you doing letting her have her own iTunes account? does she have her own mobile phone contract? credit cards?

there really ought to be a license for being a parent that you have to apply for and pass a test to qualify."

This account was prepaid, not stuck onto a line of credit. I see nothing wrong with this at all, it's just like giving them $5 or $10 spending money (except it can only be spent iTunes). It was 100% Apple's fault for unilaterally extending a line of credit that was not requested.

Anyway, how my quest, I know this was a young kid how bad do you have to be at Plants versus Zombies to blow through like £1,800 in one night?

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Where is the money?

For all the broo-haha, there is still a lot of money being spent trying to find out how to make money on the internet. Obviously someone had to try selling nothing of value to those with no concept of value.

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FAIL

Using each other's money.

Course, Apple could have avoided all this very very easily by reacting when the iPad 1 was quite rightly criticised for not allowing multiple user accounts. I mean, hey, isn't this problem something from the early days of PCs that got fixed many years ago? How do we stop multiple users of the same machine getting access to each other's personal details? Oo, that's a tough one.

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