Yesterday my daughter came over to where I was reading and shoved the iPad in my face. “Please?” She said, using her best I’ve-been-stuck-inside-for-two-days-because-of-rain face. “Can I please get the hairstyles package? It’s only $3!” I took the iPad from her and looked at the dress-up app she was using. But the “accessories” package she wanted for the free app wasn’t only $3 it was $39.99.
So of course I said no. But I’ve often said yes, usually for free or very low cost apps that I think will help her learn. And as many of us parents have discovered, once you’ve put in the password for iTunes the password I don’t actually give to my daughter, of course you can continue to make in-app purchases for fifteen minutes without the password.
And if your kid is anything like mine, they will do just that.
Luckily my daughter has primarily concentrated on free apps, but some of us haven’t been that lucky (remember the story about the kid that bought $400 worth of fish in an app?). But even so, I got the following email from Apple on Friday:
Dear iTunes account owner,
Apple is committed to providing parents and kids with a great experience on the App Store. We review all app content before allowing it on our store, provide a wide range of age-appropriate content, and include parental controls in iOS to make it easy for parents to restrict or disable access to content.
We’ve heard from some customers that it was too easy for their kids to make in-app purchases. As a result, we’ve improved controls for parents so they can better manage their children’s purchases, or restrict them entirely. Additionally, we are offering refunds in certain cases. Our records show that you made some in-app purchases, and if any of these were unauthorized purchases by a minor, you might be eligible for a refund from Apple.
While that might sound magnanimous, the truth is Apple has agreed to a $32.5 million refund for in-app purchases to settle a Federal Trade Commission unfair billing practices complaint.