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  • FTC Says It Will Investigate iOS In-App Purchases, Per US Lawmaker's Request


    On February 9th, we reported that US Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) reached out to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) questioning Apple's "marketing practices of applications for Apple devices."Markey expressed his concern in a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Liebowtiz, citing examples of several accidental and costly in-app purchases, some of which were made by children playing with their mom or dad's iPhone. As many will recall, little Madison Kay went on a high-profile shopping spree of $99 batches of "Smurfberries" to the total sum value of $1,400.

    This week, it turns out, the Federal Trade Commission responded to Congressman Markey's letter, promising to probe Apple's business practices relating to the concerns expressed. "We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz wrote. "Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications." Markey later responded to the FTC note, saying he was pleased to see the FTC take such issues seriously. "As the use of mobile apps continues to increase, I will continue to actively monitor developments in this important area," Markey said, clearly aware of how much more dangerous to the American people in-app purchases are than, say, the federal deficit and global terrorism (insert sarcasm here).

    Apple, naturally, hasn't offered formal comment on the matter, although the folks in Cupertino are no strangers to legal battles and other intensive watchdog probes. This latest accusation of "questionable business practices" follows Apple's recently announced and highly controversial subscription service for publishers - a situation that has already provoked a formal Justice Department antitrust review.

    Source: Washington Post
    This article was originally published in forum thread: FTC Says It Will Investigate iOS In-App Purchases, Per US Lawmaker's Request started by Michael Essany View original post
    Comments 40 Comments
    1. thazsar's Avatar
      thazsar -
      Quote Originally Posted by iSteed View Post
      Yeah.... I have the in-app purchase ability completely shut down on my daughters iPod and my phone is passcode protected. I guess if people were a little more careful this wouldn't happen
      So how does one shut down in-app purchases? I can't find that setting...
    1. krazy4me2bme's Avatar
      krazy4me2bme -
      Go to "Settings" then "Restrictions"

      Quote from iTunes Store: About in app purchases

      "In app purchases can only be made from within an app. When you make an in app purchase, you will see a dialog with the item's name and cost for the in app purchase. You must tap Buy in order to proceed with your purchase. Once you tap Buy, you'll be required to enter your iTunes Store account password.



      Note: Every time you make an in app purchase, you will be asked to confirm your purchase by tapping Buy. If it has been less than 15 minutes since your last iTunes Store purchase or sign-in, you will not be required to type in your account password again."

      Most people don't know about disabling in app purchases. Apple doesn't go out of their way either to educate people about it either. I do agree people should be responsible for their own device and accounts. Although a simple change of having in app purchase disabled by default with a warning / disclaimer when enabling them should suffice and help educate users.
    1. unison999's Avatar
      unison999 -
      It should have restriction on when you get the device. The owner of the device can then choose to remove the restrictions, not the other way around. Especially iOS devices because it is designed so tech-stupid people can easily operate them.
    1. Tidbits's Avatar
      Tidbits -
      Quote Originally Posted by unison999 View Post
      It should have restriction on when you get the device. The owner of the device can then choose to remove the restrictions, not the other way around. Especially iOS devices because it is designed so tech-stupid people can easily operate them.
      Then there would be 100x more complaints about how "Apple is restricting everything". It's a catch 22 and you can't make both sides happy. At least they give you the option, and I knew about these options prior to buying my iPhone 4 (Verizon) which is also my first smartphone. I knew this stuff by reading the iPhone manual while waiting for the device to be delivered(Which was out the day information was released, and when they would be delivered).

      I think people in general are too lazy, and easily willing to put the finger on someone else than themselves. The information is there, albeit you may have to read some, but most people don't bother spending 10-30 minutes out of their lives to read something that may be important to them to know yet they are willing to spend hours complaining about how something is. Seems very asinine to me.
    1. thazsar's Avatar
      thazsar -
      Quote Originally Posted by krazy4me2bme View Post
      Go to "Settings" then "Restrictions"
      Thanx!
    1. n00neimp0rtant's Avatar
      n00neimp0rtant -
      Kids, yeah, sure, they don't understand. But anyone else who can read "Would you like to purchase xxxxxx for $X.XX" and presses yes even though they don't want to buy it is just an idiot.
    1. thazsar's Avatar
      thazsar -
      Okay now...I'm a father of three. For those of you without kids, you have no idea what ur talking about; so ur advice is irrelevant! For those of you with kids, it's hard to keep CONSTANT watch over ur child while they play on ur phone, iPad, iPod, whatever. I'm just glad to know they are safe in my house so having them play on my iPhone is helpful when I need to tend to the younger ones.

      I fell victim to having my 4 y.o. daughter buy In-App purchases and she is relatively responsible. I agree that I should've read about Disabling in-app purchasing so I take responsibility for that. But I also agree that Apple should disable it by default and let us change it if we want. From the beginning of in-app purchasing IF, by default, we always had to enter our password for in-app purchases I guarantee nobody would've been complaining cuz that 'step' would be the norm for us.
    1. StealthBravo's Avatar
      StealthBravo -
      The issue is not that in app purchases are allowed, the issue is the 5 minute window after entering your password that it no longer requires password for other purchases.

      They should have a restriction option for remembering passwords. I ran into this issue a few months ago with my 3 year old sons iPod. He asked me to download some dolphin game which was free. I entered my password and let him play after it finished downloading.

      A couple days later I get an invoice from Apple for 240.00 from the dolphin play game. I checked the app out and it has options to buy up to 150.00 add-on packs and you can buy them multiple times. In my opinion these add-on packs are strictly there for accidental purchases by kids. I wrote emails to the dev and to Apple and I did receive a refund.
    1. Tidbits's Avatar
      Tidbits -
      I don't agree. In app is locked out, and you can disable it further. Read back a bit. There's a link to the KB about in app purchases. That's the most they can do. I don't want to indepth about it. There is various reasons why having it disabled from the start wouldn't matter.

      This is one thing I can agree on. The window is too long. I honestly think it should be everytime you exit the app it'll ask for a password on next buy.
      Quote Originally Posted by StealthBravo View Post
      The issue is not that in app purchases are allowed, the issue is the 5 minute window after entering your password that it no longer requires password for other purchases.

      They should have a restriction option for remembering passwords. I ran into this issue a few months ago with my 3 year old sons iPod. He asked me to download some dolphin game which was free. I entered my password and let him play after it finished downloading.

      A couple days later I get an invoice from Apple for 240.00 from the dolphin play game. I checked the app out and it has options to buy up to 150.00 add-on packs and you can buy them multiple times. In my opinion these add-on packs are strictly there for accidental purchases by kids. I wrote emails to the dev and to Apple and I did receive a refund.
    1. thazsar's Avatar
      thazsar -
      Quote Originally Posted by StealthBravo View Post
      The issue is not that in app purchases are allowed, the issue is the 5 minute window after entering your password that it no longer requires password for other purchases.

      They should have a restriction option for remembering passwords. I ran into this issue a few months ago with my 3 year old sons iPod. He asked me to download some dolphin game which was free. I entered my password and let him play after it finished downloading.

      A couple days later I get an invoice from Apple for 240.00 from the dolphin play game. I checked the app out and it has options to buy up to 150.00 add-on packs and you can buy them multiple times. In my opinion these add-on packs are strictly there for accidental purchases by kids. I wrote emails to the dev and to Apple and I did receive a refund.
      See...Even an iPhone GENIUS was victim to this!!! The 'time window' thing has got me before also.
    1. thazsar's Avatar
      thazsar -
      @Tidbits
      What do you mean when u say 'in-app is locked out?'
    1. Tidbits's Avatar
      Tidbits -
      I do have to add at least iOS does more than android. Once you log into their market. That's it. Never have to log in to buy anything. Apple gets too much scrutiny. Shoot even with BB is the same like android(this is coming from my brother-in-law).
      Best work around I have found is using the restrictions and if you are worried about that 15 minute window. Log out after you buy. Settings > store > log out I believe where they are.
      Quote Originally Posted by thazsar View Post
      @Tidbits
      What do you mean when u say 'in-app is locked out?'
      The problem is not in-app purchases. It's the window between purchases not requiring a password to buy. It does require a password to buy or use in-app, but if you "logged in" it gives you a 15 minute window of not needing to log in.
    1. StealthBravo's Avatar
      StealthBravo -
      If they would just add a restriction that disables the password remembering timing window, I'd be fine. Right now I just tell my son that he has to wait 15 mins for it to finish downloading
    1. Tidbits's Avatar
      Tidbits -
      Quote Originally Posted by StealthBravo View Post
      If they would just add a restriction that disables the password remembering timing window, I'd be fine. Right now I just tell my son that he has to wait 15 mins for it to finish downloading
      Or you can use the restriction option on the phone and turn off all purchases. That's what I use and it works well.

      It's a bit of a pain if you want to buy something for you kids, BUT at least you know you are getting billed for what exactly. So far my 4 year old hasn't purchased a thing.

      Currently the only work around is to log out after you buy. Sure it would be nice for that restriction, but people are complaining about in-app purchases and there's already a restriction setting for it. It wasn't advertised as it having it, but it's there. I think Apple did enough. Can they do more? Sure, but more people would complain about it. People already complain Apple is "Too restrictive" and want more user options. If they did more I bet there would be 100 times more complaints than the people complaining about in-app purchases.
    1. StealthBravo's Avatar
      StealthBravo -
      I agree. I see no reason for the FTC to get involved. I learned my lesson and now I just make him wait for the window to close. I might consider the restriction you mentioned
    1. Tidbits's Avatar
      Tidbits -
      I find it kind of funny though. Android and blackberries are far worse and yet they are not included in something similar. Once you are logged in you can purchase anything you want whenever you want. Makes we wonder how much people would spend if they bought one of these devices and gave it to their kids.
    1. bubbliestar's Avatar
      bubbliestar -
      Then people are gonna complain about how short the timing is and having to repeatedly input their password...
      People should read the manuals and/or descriptions of what they're buying and quit complaining because it's not written in big, bold letters warning you of mistakes you might make.
    1. Zokunei's Avatar
      Zokunei -
      Quote Originally Posted by bubbliestar View Post
      Then people are gonna complain about how short the timing is and having to repeatedly input their password...
      Not if it's a setting
    1. Tidbits's Avatar
      Tidbits -
      Wait... What is going on right now? People are complaining about in-app purchasing, but there is a setting to turn it off... Regardless if it's a setting or not. Someone will complain about it.
    1. EskimoRuler's Avatar
      EskimoRuler -
      Quote Originally Posted by StealthBravo View Post
      If they would just add a restriction that disables the password remembering timing window, I'd be fine. Right now I just tell my son that he has to wait 15 mins for it to finish downloading
      thats a good move, when he gets older he'll question your internet speed lol, but yea a toggle in setting would great