Parents Take a Bite at Apple

Parents who haven’t learned to work the parental control features on their iPhones and iPads may be in luck. Apple has agreed to a settlement in class action lawsuit over so-called “bait apps,” which are games that can be downloaded for free but then charge users for “game currency” like virtual goods or play money.  Of course, Apple’s iOS does have a parental control feature that allows users to restrict in-app purchases, but why go to all that trouble when you can just hand over your iPhone willy nilly to a child?

The lawsuit alleged that children were able to purchase “game currencies” without their parents’ knowledge or authorization while playing game applications, provided by Apple and advertised as free. Apparently, prior to early 2011, Apple let users buy game currency up to 15 times without re-entering a password in the game. The parents claim they were unaware that purchases could be made without re-entering the password. Some of their little angels racked up charges on their accounts ranging in amounts ranging from $99.99 to $338.72.  The lawsuit, of course, ignores the fact that Apple’s iOS had a parental control feature that allowed users to restrict such purchases. One victim wrote a whole article about the ordeal before a reader pointed out the parental control feature. Oops.

So what’s the big payday for our lucky winners? As far as class action settlements go, it’s actually a pretty decent settlement for the aggrieved parties.  For any member of the class whose kids purchased made an in-alp purchase for less than $5, Apple will issue a $5 iTunes gift card. For those between $5 and $30 in unauthorized purchases, Apple will issue a full refund in the form of a gift card.  Users whose little rascals spent more than $30 can choose to get a full cash refund.

If your kids made any unauthorized in-app purchases check your inbox in the months to come.  The settlement requires Apple to send a notification to all iTunes account holders who made in-app purchases.

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