Kids Run Up Hundreds of Dollars of In-App Charges; Apple to Issue Refunds

Kids with cell phonesIf your kids ran up hundreds of dollars of charges while playing mobile app games, your BBB wants you to know that you might be entitled to a full refund from Apple, Inc. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against Apple alleging that Apple violated the FTC Act by “failing to tell parents that by entering a password they were approving a single in-app purchase and also 15 minutes of additional unlimited purchases their children could make without further action by the parent.” An agreement was reached in January of this year in which Apple agreed to provide full refunds for in-app charges made by kids without parental permission at a minimum of $32.5 million to settle the FTC complaint.

Kids using apps downloaded from Apple’s App Store were able to make real money “in-app purchases” that were billed to their parents’ ITunes account. Some of the purchases were for virtual goods like pet food for virtual pets, special virtual powers for avatars, or game currency and ranged in amounts from 99 cents to $99.99 per in-app charge. In addition, parents didn’t know that entering their password once would approve a charge and open a 15 minute window allowing kids to make unlimited purchases. According to the FTC Press Release, Apple received at least tens of thousands of complaints about unauthorized in-app purchases by children. One consumer reported that her daughter spent $2,600 in the Tap Pet Hotel app and other consumers reported being billed for more than $500 in the Dragon Story and Tiny Zoo Friends apps.

According to the complaint, Apple often presented a screen in a kids’ app that prompted parents to enter a password without explaining that by doing that it would finalize any purchase at all. So as part of the settlement, Apple is required to change its billing practices to make sure that it has received “express, informed consent” from consumers before charging them for purchases made in mobile apps.

Apple was required to send an email by April 15, 2014 to anyone charged for in-app purchases letting them know how to get a refund for unauthorized spending by kids. If you have not received an email from Apple and think you might qualify, contact Apple through for instructions on how to request a refund.

How can you make sure your kids are not racking up hundreds of dollars of in-app charges? Here are some tips from the FTC:

*Read about the app before you download it

*Consider turning off in-app purchases

*Consider turning off the 15-minute window

*Play the app with your kids first

For more information you can trust, visit

Related Posts:

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FTC Offers Video Game Primer to Help Parents

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4 Ways to Teach Your Child Cyber-Awareness

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Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.

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