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Apple Faces Class-Action Suit For In-App Purchases 283

Posted by Soulskill
from the deposit-three-slashbucks-to-continue-reading dept.
suraj.sun writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: "Garen Meguerian and a team of lawyers are taking Apple to task for 'inducing' children to spend hundreds of dollars of their parents' money on in-app game purchases. Meguerian filed a class-action lawsuit this week in California, acknowledging that Apple has already addressed the problem, but saying that the company continues to unfairly profit from sales of virtual 'smurfberries' and 'fish bucks.' The issue at hand is related to games that rely on a 'freemium' business model, giving away the game for free on the App Store and relying on in-app purchases of virtual currency, extra levels, or other add-ons as a revenue stream."
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Apple Faces Class-Action Suit For In-App Purchases

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  • Bad parenting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:13PM (#35833460)

    So, neglectful parents are suing Apple because they can't be fucked with to watch what their children are doing?

    How about this: don't give your kid the iTunes account password?

  • Easy Way Out (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:14PM (#35833476)

    Garen Meguerian and a team of lawyers are taking Apple to task for 'inducing' children to spend hundreds of dollars of their parents' money on in-app game purchases.

    I guess taking a multinational corp to court is easier than being a responsible parent these days.

    Here's a hint: if they are too young and dumb^H^H^H^Hnaive to be trusted with a toy or device that lets them spend money, a parent who's worth a damn will wait until they're old enough to handle it before giving it to them. A parent who's worth a damn would blame themselves for not knowing what they were giving them too if that was the case.

    No, nothing is ever your fault and it's always somebody else who causes every problem you have in life. Kids spent a ton of money using a device you gave them? Blame the company. Can't lose weight because you eat more calories than you burn? Sue McDonalds. War on personal responsibility.

  • by Endophage (1685212) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:16PM (#35833494) Homepage
    ... that parents are buying their children (who clearly aren't yet older enough to understand financial responsibility) expensive pieces of technology so that they don't actually have to parent or spend time with their children. IMO it's becoming far to common place for parents to sit their children in front of a TV or video game so that they don't have to keep them occupied. Who told them parenting wasn't hard work?

    I'm not saying Apple hasn't been somewhat irresponsible for making it so easy to run up bills but a class action lawsuit is a little extreme for something that the parents are equally, if not more responsible for.
  • by Derekloffin (741455) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:18PM (#35833526)
    I can't really say Apple is doing anything wrong here. They have not only the option to disable said purchases available, they also went the extra step of modifying their password handling. Seems just like another case of stupid parenting to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:24PM (#35833604)

    Who told them parenting wasn't hard work?

    The government.

    Or, single mothers who want to show off their amazing independence^H selfishness by raising a bunch of bastard children with no father figure around even though it's well known that children who come from two-parent homes are much more likely to graduate from school, get decent jobs, stay out of jail, avoid becoming teen parents, etc. But those single mothers love their kids so much they think this doesn't apply to them. Course a lot of them are using WIC and other forms of leech^H band-aids for their poor decision-making^H vote-buying programs^H welfare so again government has some involvement.

    Single mothers: the most selfish creatures on the planet but they will try to make you feel guilty for seeing the reality. They will say "but look how hard I have to work to make ends meet" ... well yeah, you're doing everything the hard way, of course that's ... hard. What matters is the disadvantage you're putting your kids at not the fact that this isn't convenient for you.

    Women have about 14 different forms of non-surgical birth control available to them. Men have precisely one. Do the math. When you meet a man raised by a single mother you can always tell. They're either wusses or they're so insecure that they try to be macho thug gangstas to prove how not-wussie they are cuz they have something they feel a need to compensate for. Seriously, quit doing this shit. This country can't take too many more generations of bastard kids who don't respect anything because they couldn't find a reason to respect you.

  • parents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:27PM (#35833668) Homepage Journal
    I don't normally say this, but one must really ask why the parents need to buy kids these things or why parents need to let kids buy things in games. If a parent is responsible enough to get the money to buy an iToy, then makes a decision to buy an iGame, then makes the decision to provide the kids to the credit cards to buy iJunk, Why is it Apple fault that the parents then get a huge iBill. You don't see McDonald's getting sued because parents take their kids to the store and buy them McPoison. The kids were induced by propaganda just like in the case of Apple.

    It was like the uproar over Beavis and Butthead many years ago. Even though parents were evidently responsible enough to get a tv, pay the electricity and the cable bill, they were not deemed responsible enough to monitor what the kids watched. Therefor MTV got in trouble when Beavis and Butthead tortured animals of set them afire. Evidently the kids would do the same and it was TV, not the parents fault.

    So yes children are impressionable. Parents have to set limits on what kids are and are not able to do. But when parent make an explicitly decision to allow kids access to something, either by driving them there, or ordering a product, or giving access to a credit card, or whatever, it is no longer the companies fault. We saw this when kids were racking up huge phone and texting bills. I don't know what the issue was. If the kid can't use the phone, they don't get one, or have a prepaid.

  • by infiniphonic (657188) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:31PM (#35833722) Homepage
    Do people really plug in their credit cards into iTunes and then let there kids just do what they want with a device that has access to that resource? There is no way i would even leave a credit card attached to that kind of account, let alone let a child have unrestricted access that device. I have two iPod touches that my kids play with. At this point they are too young to grasp the concepts of accounts or passwords, but that day is coming. I only do iTunes cards so that there is no way that any financial damage can go beyond the amount i have already pre-paid (usually in the $15 to $25 range). A little common sense goes a long way in this world, but i guess that's asking too much.
  • Re:Easy Way Out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cptdondo (59460) on Friday April 15, 2011 @04:42PM (#35833880) Journal

    OK, that's different from the crap T-Mobile was pulling....

    My kids' iPods are hooked to their debit (cash) cards. So if they spend money, it's their own - and limited by the amount of cash they have. They spend wisely. (Amazing how frugal kids get when they're spending their own money.)

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:03PM (#35834112) Homepage

    > I'm not sure that Apple should itself be held responsible for the slimy practices of third-party developers

    They are a platform tyrant.

    They have chosen to make themselves responsible.

    Now that there are consequences, they should own up to them.

    Now web games do the same sort of thing. Although it's more difficult to get carried away with it.

    The iTunes approach to in-app purchases is kind of like a slot machine that takes credit cards.

  • Re:Bad parenting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joh (27088) on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:20PM (#35834278)

    So, neglectful parents are suing Apple because they can't be fucked with to watch what their children are doing?

    How about this: don't give your kid the iTunes account password?

    The point is THEY WEREN'T GIVING THEIR KIDS THE PASSWORD. They typed it in for them to "buy" a free app and then the kids bought things from within that app in the 15 minute window you can buy things without having to re-type the password.

    I would VERY much prefer an option to disable that password caching altogether. When I buy something I want the device to require the password each and every time I spend money.

  • Re:Bad parenting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scot4875 (542869) on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:28PM (#35834390) Homepage

    I've said it before, I'll say it again: this is a children's game. THERE IS NO REASON FOR A CHILDREN'S GAME TO ALLOW ITS PLAYERS TO SPEND $100 ON IN-GAME ITEMS.

    What the fuck is wrong with you "parents are being neglectful" people?

    --Jeremy

  • Re:Bad parenting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday April 15, 2011 @05:32PM (#35834448) Homepage Journal

    So, what you are saying is that the consumer should be excused from normal diligence before purchasing an iOS device?

    Are you saying large corporations should be excused from unethical behavior? Are you saying consumers should not assume that everything Apple (and other corporations) does is hostile to consumers' best interests?

    If you have to perform "due diligence" just to buy a consumer product to make sure it's not going to rip you off, you should probably scratch that company off the list of companies you'll do business with.

    I'm not trying to pick on Apple here. So many corporations have broken trust with their customers that the only solution is to have the government place a heavy regulatory foot on their necks which doesn't get removed until the company proves it's not going to rip off consumers. Considering the complex nature of computer software, and the labyrinthine complexity of end user licenses and agreements, there is no practical way that any individual consumer can protect himself. It's got to be done by someone who has the same legal and financial power as the company. The only entity that fits that bill is the government.

    The non-existent "free market" has already shown its insufficiency in protecting consumers.

  • Re:Bad parenting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bacon Bits (926911) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:45PM (#35835350)

    So, neglectful parents are suing Apple because they can't be fucked with to watch what their children are doing?

    No, conscientious parents are suing Apple for preying on children. And they found out about Apple preying on their children by watching what their children were doing.

    It's far more likely they're suing because they got the bill and saw how much virtual currency their child purchased, and rather than blaming their child for doing something stupid, or blaming themselves for not actually watching their child, they resort to court action. Because if it's one thing courts are good for, it's fixing problems in ways that make everyone happy.

  • Re:Easy Way Out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:57PM (#35835908)

    From Day 1, Apple has had parental controls that can disable the ability to make any App Store purchases on the device. And by default the phone would ask for the iTunes password whenever a new app was downloaded.

    Well yes, you can completely disable app store purchases. However, they do not now, and never have considered $0 purchases any differently than $1000 purchases. Why not a graduated scale? Or allow $0 purchases without a password (after all, who cares about a $0 purchase?).

    And the default of is not to ask for the password for every app purchase. They only ask once every 15 minutes. So you could get one app and not have to reauthenticate again if you immediately got another.

    The problem initially is that in app purchases didn't require a password every time.

    App purchases didn't "require" a password ever, as long as you had performed any authenticated iTunes login and purchase in the last 15 minutes. So if you don't let your children have the password, and you find a free game, like the Smurf one, download it and hand the phone to them, they have 15 minutes of in-app purchases without authentication. There was no way at all to turn off that functionality. What I'd do was to get the app then put it in airplane mode, start a countdown, and hand over the phone. No calls for 15 minutes, but no charges. When the alarm went off, I could take it out of airplane mode. From what I can tell, that's the easiest way to enforce on in-app purchases.

    Apple has since corrected that.

    They released a new OS that everyone would have to upgrade to. Because of their choice to never patch an OS, but instead to release new ones, this means that anyone with a 2G or 3G iPhone can never get the "fix." We have two iPhones, and they are the ones that can never get that OS. So it isn't fixed. I don't know the distribution of sales, but I'd guess that the number of iPhones sold which can't be "fixed" exceeds the number that can. And that's apparently ok with you.

    Outside of that, Apple has done nothing.

    They created a security model that considers the download of a $0 app to require the same security as $1000 of smurfberries, and that authorizing a single $0 app should authorize and infinite amount of other app and in-app purchases. That's a little sloppy. Once it's pointed out and it takes them years to fix it (spending most of that time doing what I see here and blaming parents for their inherently broken security) and then the fix doesn't work for many (most?) iPhones, it's no longer sloppy, it's negligent.

    App developers are the ones putting in the in app purchases and promoting them in a way that children were getting to them. There may be some liability since Apple does have a curated app store, but it's going to be hard to prove intent that Apple was in any way doing this intentionally.

    It's easy to prove they did it intentionally. How? It happened. People complained. Years passed... If they didn't do it intentionally, they continued the practice intentionally. The "best" fix is to allow users to disable in-app purchases of any kind. However, Apple doesn't want that because they make 30% of errors. They want people to make errors and then not demand refunds because the users feel silly asking for a refund for something they did and know they did, even if it was unintentional. Apple is profiting from these, and they were negligently slow in addressing the issue (and did so in a way that affected the least possible number of phones). And here you are lining up to blame the parents and exonerate Apple. I just don't see it.

  • Re:Bad parenting (Score:1, Insightful)

    by DocHoncho (1198543) * <dochoncho.gmail@com> on Friday April 15, 2011 @08:15PM (#35836028) Homepage

    It'd be a hell of a lot harder to operate an unethical corporation if people were wiser, more savvy, less naive, and performed due diligence.

    Please stop blaming the victims.

    Not only that, he's indulging in the same kind of wishful thinking as the space nutters. "If only the laws of physics weren't so strict, we could have FTL travel and visit the stars!"

    In other words, if people weren't people everything would be A OK. Got it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2011 @11:04PM (#35836840)

    "Unless you actually have kids, your opinion about what is right and wrong involving raising kids means less than nothing."

    Damn right! And until you have a million dollars, your opinion about the appropriate uses of that money are meaningless. Likewise, until you are in charge of a country of hundreds of millions of citizens (or more), your opinions about how to run such a country are of no value whatsoever. And until you actually have your head up your ass, you have no worthwhile ideas regarding what to do about it.

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