Parents Suing Apple Over In-Game Purchasing

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Parents Suing Apple Over In-Game Purchasing

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Parents concerned with their kids' in-game spending are heading to court.

After months of legal wrangling, a group of concerned parents has now been given permission to sue Apple for "manipulating" their kids into spending large amounts of real-world cash on virtual in-app objects (mostly Smurfberries) in various iOS games. Led by attorney Garen Meguerian, the group is alleging that the "addictive" nature of some iOS games drives their kids to buy in-game items without really knowing what's going on.

This isn't the first time parents have voiced concerns over in-app purchases made by their kids. After 8 year-old Madison Kay managed to run up a bill of $1400 in record time on Smurfs' Village last year, the Federal Trade Commission ruled that games like Smurfs' Village must warn parents and children that those $99 Smurfberries do cost actual, real, non-Smurf cash.

However, Apple's in-app purchase protocol has changed since then. When Madison went a little crazy for the Smurfberries, she was able to do so because all that stood between her and the berries was her mother's iTunes password. These days, kids like Madison have an extra few hoops to jump through before being able to make an autonomous purchase, including an extra, app-only password. Additionally, Apple says that iOS games featuring in-app purchases now come with an option that allows parents to switch in-game buying off altogether.

Meguerian's group of unhappy parents are seemingly unsatisfied with these updates. Even though it's now much easier to stop your kid wasting the month's food budget on new shinies for their virtual pets, the parents in question seem to believe that the option to pay real money to advance shouldn't be in the games at all. Their issue would seem to be more with the addictive, Skinner Box-y nature of these games than with the purchase structure itself.

Apple has declined to comment on the case, having already asked that it be booted from the justice system in light of the changes made to its in-app purchasing systems. Do the parents have a point? Should games which feature potentially manipulative in-game purchase systems be targeted at children? Is $99 a reasonable price for a wagon of Smurfberries? Will these kids ever know the joy of Crash Bandicoot?

Source: BBC

Permalink

/facepalm

I think Apple has done quite a bit to make it harder for any little kids to spend a bunch money on in game items. And don't let your kids now your passwords because shit like this happens

So yes parents are apparently fine with their money being thrown away as long as their selfish little groin spawn aren't the ones doing it.

On the one hand, overreacting parents.

On the other hand, manipulative microtransactions.

Im not sure which side i loathe more...

I hope they realize that selling in-app purchases is the only reason these "freemium" games get made. And if they somehow get them eliminated or banned, there won't be many free games of any quality on the iOS market, they'll just have to pay for apps up front. Seriously, go look at the most popular free games on the App Store and you'll see like over 90% of them have in-app purchases (and yes, I know popular =/= good, but I'm not going wading through the rest of the muck that is the iOS app store).

Don't give your spawn access to credit card informations then. Or you know... teach them to use money properly. Like on TF2 hats!

If they want to target someone, go after Google or Android. They've at least refused to offer the security features that Apple does. Sure, they have 3rd-Party apps available (that you must buy) that can cut in-app purchased for a handful of major titles, but they aren't all-encompassing. (And are more of a personal slap in the face, to me.)

I spent almost 45min digging around in a friend's Android/GoogleApps phone and found not a single method to curtail the ability for someone to one-click puchase something from within any of her apps. It was kind of jarring, really... and the first time I was proud that I use an iPhone, myself. (...since I tend to agree with my friends about the whole excessive cost and mindless-drone fanboyism that crops up around Apple products... Hell, the only reason I HAD an iPhone was that it was a hand-me-down from my wife, who won't use anything else.)

captcha: "live your dream"
Standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you? Um, okay.

surely they should sue the companies who made the games rather than the owners of the platform it happened to be on.

What?!!!
$1400?!!!
Why those kids have access to such ammount of money?

ITT: dumb parents want someone else to blame for their own failures.

Frankly I don't see how this is Apple's responsibility, the devs of the apps should be the ones they're going after for shady microtransactions.

Seriously, I'm not gonna give my child my password, especially when there's credit card numbers involved, that's just.... dumb.
1400$ for smurfberries is still a LOT. O_O

Seriously, why put a wheelbarrow of smurfberries on your store and sell it for $100?

THAT needs to stop.

gigastar:
On the one hand, overreacting parents.
On the other hand, manipulative microtransactions.
Im not sure which side i loathe more...

TheKasp:
Don't give your spawn access to credit card informations then. Or you know... teach them to use money properly. Like on TF2 hats!

KeyMaster45:
Frankly I don't see how this is Apple's responsibility, the devs of the apps should be the ones they're going after for shady microtransactions.

Hookah:
ITT: dumb parents want someone else to blame for their own failures.

If I remember correctly form the original story, the issue has nothing to do with parents not watching. When you put in your password for something unrelated, it stays unlocked for several minutes and allows people without proper password knowledge to completely bypass it and make crazy purchases. Which IS a big problem.

Going to go check that now.

Ah, yes here it is.

"Some parents complain that parental controls are difficult to use or have loopholes, like giving users a 15-minutes window to make purchases without re-entering a password after it's entered once."

Should they be watched closer... sure. But there's some system flaws that really do need to be addressed.

Good. It's about time someone actually took up the cause of Skinner-box style microtransactions aimed at children. System is fine for adults, but there is a line.

CAPCHA: last straw

Apple needs to have an in-app purchase toggle in the general setting of the iOS not in the apps themselves.

As much as I hate the monetization at work in these games it is where the majority of those developers income comes from, for better or worse, and outlawing the practice all together is not the answer.

The real problem is that parents are so quick to hand off the virtual baby sitter, stay out of my hair, devices that they don't even bother to familiarize themselves with the actions they need to take to defend their wallets and their children from influences they feel are questionable. But when most parents now days are as equally immature as their entitled brood; what more can we expect. The whole culture is trained to blame someone else before excepting any responsibility. That was the whole point of the South Park movie.

To quote Bender, "Parents haven't you ever tried just sitting down with your kids, and hitting them?"

But, what do I know, I'm just a technology support specialist, in a predominantly Apple environment, who has worked eight hours a day in public middle schools for 4 years... Someone help me.

SangRahl:
If they want to target someone, go after Google or Android. They've at least refused to offer the security features that Apple does. Sure, they have 3rd-Party apps available (that you must buy) that can cut in-app purchased for a handful of major titles, but they aren't all-encompassing. (And are more of a personal slap in the face, to me.)

I spent almost 45min digging around in a friend's Android/GoogleApps phone and found not a single method to curtail the ability for someone to one-click puchase something from within any of her apps. It was kind of jarring, really... and the first time I was proud that I use an iPhone, myself. (...since I tend to agree with my friends about the whole excessive cost and mindless-drone fanboyism that crops up around Apple products... Hell, the only reason I HAD an iPhone was that it was a hand-me-down from my wife, who won't use anything else.)

Can't say I'm surprised. That's the downside of being an open platform; you can't tell third-party developers what to do.

Ok, im going to lay out my feelings simply. Parent Should moderate their children better. Apple did add additional settings to stop purchases. Apple is arsecake for even allowing 99$ purchases in a childrens game. Charges need to be dropped. Large portion Money needs to be refunded to the parents. Parents need to moderate their child better.

Giving your child ANYTHING with your credit card info on it is a terrible idea to start. Especially when you can go to the store and buy him prepaid cards he cant do a 1400$ purchase on.

All in all, parents are at fault more then Apple, but Apple is still refried turkey feet for even allowing purchases of that size without questioning it.

Mouse_Crouse:

gigastar:
On the one hand, overreacting parents.
On the other hand, manipulative microtransactions.
Im not sure which side i loathe more...

TheKasp:
Don't give your spawn access to credit card informations then. Or you know... teach them to use money properly. Like on TF2 hats!

KeyMaster45:
Frankly I don't see how this is Apple's responsibility, the devs of the apps should be the ones they're going after for shady microtransactions.

Hookah:
ITT: dumb parents want someone else to blame for their own failures.

If I remember correctly form the original story, the issue has nothing to do with parents not watching. When you put in your password for something unrelated, it stays unlocked for several minutes and allows people without proper password knowledge to completely bypass it and make crazy purchases. Which IS a big problem.

Going to go check that now.

Ah, yes here it is.

"Some parents complain that parental controls are difficult to use or have loopholes, like giving users a 15-minutes window to make purchases without re-entering a password after it's entered once."

Should they be watched closer... sure. But there's some system flaws that really do need to be addressed.

This proposed case isnt about the password thing or parental control, its about the predatory nature of games that feature microtransactions.

And im not about to stoop to using Apple products just to see if the password thing is even still there.

And while im here...

newwiseman:
To quote Bender, "Parents haven't you ever tried just sitting down with your kids, and hitting them?"

While solid words, this method is genuinely flawed in several ways. Most of theese flaws are legal in nature and will haunt you for the rest of your life.

As much as I hate the prevalence of these freemium games, this lawsuit is just parents trying to get an excuse to not do proper parenting.

I think it will get dismissed pretty early on.

*doublepost*

I knew people would blame the parents and ignore the predatory nature of the greedy people.

I have no idea what a wagon full of Smurfberries can get you in the game. But unless Smurfette pops out of the game and offers to give you blowjobs for the next month, do your laundry, and cook your meals, $99 for ANYTHING in a game is just fucking ridiculous.

And on a more joking note - which I'm surprised someone hasn't already quipped about - these parents should just be glad that EA doesn't market towards children. :P

I checked out the source link and noticed a few things:

However, the group of parents, led by attorney Garen Meguerian, said children were still encouraged to buy items by the games' addictive nature,

Uh, so? Apple's not developing the games. Apple can hardly be blamed for this "addictive nature".

and parents might not be fully aware of the financial implications.

Again, not really Apple's fault. They make this information easily availabe. If the parents are not fully aware, it's because they CHOOSE not to pay attention when downloading apps (or because they allow their children into the app store itself, at which point they could just as easily spend money in there).

Short of using the front camera to determine the age of the user and disabling in-app purchases based on that (an idea which has SERIOUS privacy issues, can't be guaranteed to work consistently, and requires newer hardware than many people have), there's really not much more they can do about an unsupervised kid who knows their parent's password or credit card details.

P.S. Thanks

When my son wants to play Mass Effect 3, I have to input my password into Origin. Now if he wanted to buy DLC, he would be prompted with a password request. What if I gave him my Origin password, he would then have the password to buy DLC.

The problem is that some games need a password to play at all and that is the same password used to buy microtransactions. It may not be the case with Apple but it is going to be a problem in the future when all games require some sort of login.

I do not understand the issue here.
What is the argument? That the Apple is somehow forcing parents to give their kids access to their accounts without question?

Let me lay out two scenarios here:

Your child asks you if they can please buy a .99 cent smurfberry. They have been very good today and you are feeling generous, so you oblige them by inputting your itunes password and letting b them buy the requested digital item. Later on you discover that they then abused your trust and bought all teh smurfberries.

Reaction: Sue Apple for publishing addictive games.

Your child asks you if they can please have a .99 cent icecream bar from the local shoppe. They have been very good today and you are feeling generous, so you oblige them by giving them your debit card and PIN to buy the requested delicious item. Later on you discover that they then abused your trust and bought a few CDs as well as the .99 cent icecream bar.

Reaction: Sue W.B. for publishing addictive music.

This does not make sense to me. Parents can not offload the responsibility of raising their kids to society at large. Are these games designed to make kids want to buy things? Yes. Does the fact that they are digital goods make it much easier to obtain then traditional items? Yes. However, if you as a parent do not teach your kid that stealing from you is wrong, no mater how colorful the end result is, you have failed to do your duty as a parent.

Kids are tempted to do all sorts of things that are bad for them: eat candy all day, not go to school, call eachother hurtful names, etc. Leaving your kid unsupervised with your passwords is not the fault of Apple, or W.B., or anyone else. Would you blame your cable company if your kid ordered PPV TV because you told them your password?

I understand how pissed these parents are. It's true that they probably have 0 chance of winning any court cases (I'm not in touch with how Apple manages app microtransactions BTW) but the Skinner box practices that some of these games use is downright villanous. I had to delete my girlfriend's game of Oregon Trail from her Android because the game threatened to kill her virtual daughter if she didn't fork over $5. WTF is up with that? I know it's a fucking game but for the love of God, taking virtual characters for ransom.

A lot of these games just wait until you are at your most immersed to suddenly fuck you out of the blue and tell you to hand them money if you don't want to lose the game. You virtually lose unless you pay them money to keep playing. They've basically set a virtual Mafia that charges you a "protection" fee.

Whoops, someone bought something on my computer using my information. Better sue the computer manufacturers!

I just don't get it. Why are they going after Apple? They didn't make the software in question, and its stupid for people to demand that they police the app store application process even more than they already do. For all the little oddities that slip through, their rules are tight enough as it is.

Parents should pay more attention to what their kids are doing online instead of using technology as a babysitter.

No sympathy.

This is just me... but I'm pretty sure you should NOT give an irresponsible little shit your Itunes password. And should you not be trying to sue the game maker? As much as I like to see Apple suffer they didn't price the berries at 99$, and they didn't force you to purchase them.

Here exactly what happened: The parents put in the password to update the game. Since it does not log out for 15 minutes, the 4 year old was able to purchase $1400 without a prompt or notice. Not saying the parents are not responsible for being vigilant, people need to know the facts.

Well, if it is a problem with addiction then maybe it's time fo some additional legislation conrcerning these types of games. You know, the same way it's against the law for minors to be gambling.

Breaking news.

The Skinner Box isn't evil. However it is evil people who use it to manipulate people. It is also stupid parents who allow their kids to play skinner box centric games.

In unrelated news the Pope was spotted in a catholic chuch.

RJ 17:
But unless Smurfette pops out of the game and offers to give you blowjobs for the next month, do your laundry, and cook your meals, $99 for ANYTHING in a game is just fucking ridiculous.

I get the feeling that if that were the case, these parents would have bigger issues than figuring out a parental lock.

Farther than stars:
Well, if it is a problem with addiction then maybe it's time fo some additional legislation conrcerning these types of games. You know, the same way it's against the law for minors to be gambling.

Good luck enforcing that law.

I wouldn't make it illegal as thats just stupid an unenforceable and removes all responsibility from the company in question and to the parents. I would stick a different minium age rating on a game which has skinner box tactics as well as any game with an in game purchase system.

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