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The Almighty Buck Apple

Apple Moves To Stop Kids Racking Up iTunes Bills 232

Xacid writes "Apple Inc. has changed how purchases inside iPhone and iPad games are authorized after customers complained that their kids were racking up hundreds of dollars worth of charges. The issue was that after a user entered his or her iTunes password on a device, the device didn't prompt for the password again for 15 minutes. Any purchases, whether in the iTunes store or inside kid-friendly games such as 'The Smurf's Village,' went through without a new password prompt. This meant that parents who handed over their iPhones or iPads to their kids were sometimes shocked by large purchases of 'Smurfberries' and other virtual bling."
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Apple Moves To Stop Kids Racking Up iTunes Bills

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  • Sounds like... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @04:50PM (#35508424)

    ... it's a parenting problem.

  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @04:52PM (#35508446) Homepage

    ...parents left cookies on the table and were shocked to find that their children ate them when they weren't looking.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:05PM (#35508608)

    Speaking as a parent, if my daughter did this (and I would be shocked if she did), I would make damn sure sufficient wrath descended upon her that she'd never do it again. Firstly, for stealing from her father, and secondly, for spending money on stupid shit.

    If your kids don't think their actions have consequences, you're doing it wrong. Your job isn't to insulate them from the world, it's just to put safety wheels on it until they can ride it safely.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:12PM (#35508712)
    Because there are very few games without DLC today. And often times fun is associated with a cost, the point is to find the balance. For example, is a new video game fun? (In some cases) Yes. But is it worth $60 new to get it right away? It depends. Those are the questions that people have to deal with, is it worth it to buy it now? To buy it when you can get it for $30 used? To buy it late in the life of the console for only $10? To never buy it?

    To shelter a kid from the real world where people -are- pressured to buy everything is counterproductive. Rather, use technical means to make sure that the kid can't spend more than they have (such as a gift-card only account). Sure, they might "waste" some money on pointless things, but eventually they will learn what they like and what they don't and they will be better prepared to spend money when they get larger amounts.
  • by gfreeman ( 456642 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:12PM (#35508720)

    I really don't see how this is much of a parenting issue. ... a kid playing a game might not fully realize that this is going to be charged real money.

    Sounds TOTALLY like a parenting issue to me.

    See those candies in the store? Not the store's job to tell the kid they need real money to buy them.

    If you haven't taught your kids to appreciate real money yet, then they shouldn't be in the position to spend real money without your supervision.

  • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:13PM (#35508728) Homepage Journal

    if I had it to design myself, I'd make it so that apps could do in-game purchases that would require a call to the store API. That would pause the game and pop up a purchase area that didn't look like the game, that required their password for access. Then within that area they could buy items. Then leave that area to return to the game. Then require the password next time they wanted to go there.

    That would help create a division between the game and the store. Right now with completely in-game purchasing, the kids don't see the purchase as anything other than just another button to click in the game. It needs to have a completely different, consistent look to it, that says "you are not in the game right now, you are in the STORE, spending REAL MONEY".

    Another alternate implementation could be to just make such an area to "fund" the game. Then the game devs could implement their own in-game experience store, but that would draw on the funds transferred from the store. That would allow the parents to say "ok Timmy I've put $10 into your Smurfs store, spend it wisely!" That would actually be a good experience for the kids... they need to learn the value of money. It would also relieve the parents of having to mess with the store every time their kid wanted to buy their pet grasshopper a different color of shoes for a quarter etc.

  • Re:It's about time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:13PM (#35508732) Homepage Journal

    Exactly. The whole notion that it should be as easy as possible to spend money is rooted in the corporation's desire for us to not think twice about it.

    Back when Blockbuster was relevant, (and gamefly didn't exist) they had an all-you-can-rent plan for games. The one requirement to signing up was that you needed to use a genuine credit card, not a bank-backed credit/debit card but a genuine going-into-debt card. What's the difference? The real credit card won't stop you from spending beyond your limit; ergo they get their money no matter what even if you can't technically afford it.

    Easy spending is an epidemic (in most western nations at least) just as bad as easy eating, and we just keep lining up to support the companies that are sucking us in.

  • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by egamma ( 572162 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {ammage}> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:18PM (#35508784)

    You have to draw the line somewhere, but the whole notion that online retailers insist upon saving your credit information is absurd. Beyond the tendency to overspend, there's also the issue of all of a sudden you have to worry about somebody stealing the details and running up large bills with stolen credit card details.

    Retailers need to store credit cards to issue refunds on returns. After that time period, I think they should delete the info. In reality, it can be tricky to clean up all references to data.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:24PM (#35508846) Journal

    Blame the victim much? You really don't understand the issue here. How about explaining scams and cons to your daughter, maybe explain that imaginary smurfberries cost real money, that a single ring tone costs $4.99 a month, and various other absurdities of online commerce. What, you think these kids are knowingly racking up that amount of debt? Yeah, then I've got a bridge to sell you, sucker.

    What makes you think this is about kids not understanding the consequences of their actions, rather than online scams and shady business practices? I despise smugly superior people who take the phrase "let the buyer beware" to mean "any con against an unaware buyer is fair game." Stop blaming the victim. Stop criticizing legitimate efforts by businesses to address the concerns of their customers. It's almost as if you want these people to lose money, so you can feel superior to them. Do you perhaps feel that social Darwinism will not weed out the "inferior" people if we protect them from human predators? Maybe you think the predators, being stronger, should have more rights than the weak and stupid? I don't know. I really can't even fathom a mindset like yours.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ErikZ ( 55491 ) * on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:29PM (#35508892)

    Because the amount of gray area scams out there are LIMITLESS.

    You must learn how to keep an eye out for this stuff, and the best time to really learn is when you're a poor kid.

    You don't do your kids any favors by sending them out the door wrapped head to toe in pillows.

  • by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:34PM (#35508934)
    If i pulled some shit like this when I was a kid, I'd get my ass beat with the belt.
  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:57PM (#35509234)

    Speaking as a parent, if my son were young enough again to be interested in Smurfberries, I'd likely figure that he didn't know what he was doing; also, punishing a child for something he or she doesn't understand is stupid and unfair. I also have no idea how to teach a child that young that touching buttons on a phone is (a) stealing money, or (b) spending money (or, for that matter, that Smurfberries are stupid).

    My son was aware that actions have consequences from an early age, but when he was four he really wasn't good at predicting those consequences, particularly in an environment set up to scam him. I was a lot older than that before I realized that money was more than pieces of metal and paper, but also those numbers in the bank books.

    Consequently, some sort of safety wheel to make sure they don't inadvertantly spend large amounts of money strikes me as a real good idea.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rainmouse ( 1784278 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:15PM (#35509396)

    ... Apple is offering a technical solution to the problem.

    Or another way of putting it is that Apple are deliberating over months the 'problem' of kids having full access to their parents credit cards for any itunes purchases for 15 minutes after their parents giving them a gift. I know all the fanboys are lining up to blame the parents for being stupid enough to pay for something for their children without reading slashdot first, personally their response makes me feel they are far more stupid only for trusting Apple with their credit cards in the first place.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lactose99 ( 71132 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:22PM (#35509482)

    No its not, its providing an ALTERNATIVE to what might become bad behavior.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @09:05PM (#35510970)

    Saying that it's a parenting problem does not absolve Apple of a practical need to deal with it.

    Yes, my child purchasing things without asking due to a poorly designed authentication mechanism (use case analysis, anyone) is proximately my problem. I must solve that problem.

    I can solve that problem in many ways:
        1. I can manually toggle in app purchasing, and hope that I never forget
        2. I can teach my child to never ever push a button when they see that funny $ without talking to a parent, and hope that they perfectly comply
        3. I can call Apple out on its bonehead use case analysis. The trite 'he who has the gold makes the rules' also applies to collections of customers. Make customers happy, make money. Make customers unhappy, make less money.
        4. etc.

    Most importantly, I can engage in defense in depth by pursuing solutions at the same time. Trolls bleat "sounds like a parenting problem," and parents demanding that a braindead authentication mechanism change get ridiculed because these self-aggrandizing paragons of foresight cannot conceive a world in which others would do anything other than 'blame Apple.' An attempt to get Apple to improve the product couldn't possibly be made by people who believe that it's ultimately their responsibility to deal with the problem. After all, everybody except for you and the rest of the Illuminati are "sheeple."

    House fire? Sounds like a homeowner problem to me. House fire caused by an Easy Bake oven? Yeah, that's a homeowner problem too. You should have been handcuffed to your kid at all times, or else taken the lightbulb out. After all, nobody making an Easy Bake over could foresee that a child would leave something in it for hours, and even if they could, we simply don't care about the manufacturer's ability to fix the risk for $2/unit. Don't complain about the fire risk (fix it yourself), don't call the fire department (put it our yourself), and for heaven's sake don't create a moral hazard by allowing people to take insurance out against fire (enablers, every one).

    Your ultra-libertarian utopia is nothing more than a warmed over Hobbesian distopia. I'll do you one better: Adam Smith's utopia. If the value of the effort required for Apple to mitigate this in-game purchase problem is substantially less than the value of all of parents' collective efforts to control their kiddies' in-game purchases, then Apple will (as it has) volunteer some 'responsibility'. Why? Because they can generate greater value, gain sales, and make money doing it. They know that because parents have complained and they can see the value proposition. Make the product that your customers want, solve the problems that your customers have, and keep your customer happy. And that last part most definitely "sounds like an Apple problem."

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant