Apple to refund parents for kids’ in-app purchases

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NEW YORK — Apple will refund millions of dollars to consumers after allowing kids to make in-app purchases without their parents’ consent.

Apple will pay at least $32.5 million, after reaching a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission Wednesday.

FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez said 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 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.


  • Katrina

    Why didn’t the parents put a code to block buying apps or better, why didn’t they make it clear not to buy apps to the child? I feel this falls into the parents responsibly.

    • l337g33k

      There is not really a *code* to put in to block in app purchases for iOS. That’s the argument. Once the itunes password is put in, it doesn’t have to be put in again for 15 minutes. So in that 15 minute window, it could be free reign for happy tappy lil fingers. So here lies the problem:

      1. Free apps, the vast majority of what people play, are COMPLETELY ridden with pop ups and advertisements for paid features. A small kid may get confused and accidentally click a paid feature when actually trying to X (close) it. On these small screen devices, it’s very very very to click anything other than the X… I do it all the time and I’m constantly brought to the itunes browser to buy things.

      2. There are parental controls in the iOS operating system; however, the majority of users can’t navigate to them. They have to go through the system settings to be able to turn those controls on… obviously not a highly advertised solution.

      I’ll definitely go huge on the conspiracy theory on this. The app architecture and rabbit’s hole of system settings are suppose to encourage *impulsive* in app buying. I whole heartedly believe developers and Apple want, and expect, this to happen.

      • Stephanie Dunlap

        I agree totally! The “X” for closing a screen is nearly always placed directly over the same exact “box” you click to purchase when an advertisement pops up AND THEY POP UP ALL THE TIME!! It is relentless and yes, i too, believe that it is intentional and expected to happen by Apple. Why else would they not just make us enter our passwords each & every time we want to purchase an app or an item for an app? Seems a lot more secure and less costly to us, their customers. I’d much prefer to type in a password 2 or 3 times than have my bank acct affected. Glad they are having to pay these parent’s back BUT it will happen again….until it is changed, that is.

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