Apple is handing out $5 per account to some of its iTunes users. It has agreed to a settlement in the class action lawsuit that was filed against it by parents after their children were able to amass huge bills without having to obtain authorization inside applications downloaded from the iTunes App Store.
As part of the settlement, eligible members of the class action lawsuit will be issued an iTunes Gift card worth $5, or they can take a cash payment if their accidental spending total reaches $30 or more. These charges would have had to have been incurred from a list of as of yet unpublicized games that allowed in-game purchases.
In 2011, iTunes App Store users applied and won class action status against the company after it debuted a set of rather loose requirements for making a purchase inside the store without the need to authorize each purchase. This made for a great customer experience for those looking to just grab an add-on for an application and keep the fun coming. It also led to disastrous results for iPhone users with children, who could easily continue purchasing characters and consumable items in their favorite games without asking a parent for their credentials or permission.
Thought it isn’t named in the filing, FreshWater Aquarium is a great example of this. Though the application is initially listed for a purchase price of just $0.99, the purchase of newer tanks, food, decorations, and trinkets, and more exciting species of fish meant that the cost of a child using the app with unlimited access to a parents credit card (which is required when creating an iOS account) over the long term could eclipse that initial investment.
Apple closed the loophole in 2011 and continues to police the commerce tools it makes available to developers to prevent this same issue via its app certification process. For their part, no independent developers were named in the lawsuit.
You can enable the fix that closed the loophole from any iOS device’s settings by navigating to General settings and flipping the In-App Purchases toggle to off. From there you can also limit many of the operating system’s other functions to keep your children safe as well.
Kids Making In-App Purchases isn’t a problem unique to iOS: when Amazon debuted its next generation Kindle Fire HD tablet alongisde a new subscription model that offered unlimited amounts of books, games, television shows, for members of the entire family it intentionally left out the ability for in-app purchases of any kind.