Apple to Refund Some In-App Purchases Made by Children

In-app purchases have been a problem for Apple, but more of a problem for parents, whose kids may have spent lots of money on extra lives, coins or toys in the games they play. Personally, I think the in-app purchase-based economy is evil, and companies like Apple should stop it: there are games where you can spend hundreds of dollars buying extra lives and hints, and the process is just manipulative.

The problem with in-app purchases and children, however, is that Apple allowed in-app purchases to continue for a period of time after a parent entered a password. So, a kind could buy a game – or, more often, download a free game – and the parent would enter a password for the purchase. They could then buy in-app purchases without the parent needing to enter the password again for a certain time.

Apple has sent out emails to iTunes account holders offering to refund some in-app purchases. Here’s what they say:

Dear iTunes account owner,
Apple is committed to providing parents and kids with a great experience on the App Store. We review all app content before allowing it on our store, provide a wide range of age-appropriate content, and include parental controls in iOS to make it easy for parents to restrict or disable
access to content.

We’ve heard from some customers that it was too easy for their kids to make in-app purchases. As a result, we’ve improved controls for parents so they can better manage their children’s purchases, or restrict them entirely. Additionally, we are offering refunds in certain cases.

Our records show that you made some in-app purchases, and if any of these were unauthorized purchases by a minor, you might be eligible for a refund from Apple.

If you’ve made any in-app purchases, you’ll get an email like this. And if you think any of them were made by your kids, take advantage of this opportunity to seek a refund.

Some of the highest grossing apps are “free” apps that thrive on in-app purchases. Apply has changed the in-app purchase process slightly, but I think it’s still a bad way for the app economy to work.