Apple plans to refund millions of dollars to consumers after allowing kids to make in-app purchases without their parents’ consent.
The company will pay at least $32.5 million, after reaching a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday.
WHNT News 19 has been covering the problems in-app purchases can pose for parents, airing a special report called “The App Trap” that featured a Huntsville family hit with a massive surprise bill.
In that Taking Action report, mom Christi League described how she discovered jaw-dropping credit card charges totaling more than $900. Her daughter Betty had been purchasing add-ons while playing mobile games, not realizing they cost real dollars.
FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez said Wednesday that Apple failed to notify parents that once they enter their Apple passwords for children to buy virtual items for games on their iPhones and iPads, they leave open a 15-minute window during which children can make additional and unlimited in-app purchases without additional parental authorization.
Ramirez said the window allowed children to run up millions of dollars of charges on apps including “Dragon Story” and “Tiny Zoo Friends.” One consumer complained to the FTC that her daughter had spent $2,600 in the app Tap Pet Hotel, according to Ramirez. Others reported that their kids had racked up as much as $500 in in-app purchases.
Apple has agreed to provide full refunds to consumers who have been affected, Ramirez said.
Apple has also emailed consumers who may have been impacted by unauthorized charges, but Ramirez said consumers can also reach out to Apple if they believe they have been affected.
Apple will have to modify its billing practices as a result of the settlement by notifying parents of the 15-minute window. Apple has until March to make the changes.
Apple has already settled a class action lawsuit with parents who said the company’s policy let their children rack up charges without their permission.
Experts recommend talking to your kids about in-app purchases and how they work. You can also set some controls using a PIN. For tips on how to use a PIN to limit in-app purchases on an Apple or Android device click here.