In-app purchases lead to big bills for parents

A new report suggests that some parents are facing large iTunes bills after their children unknowingly make purchases within some apps. The San Francisco Chronicle has reprinted an AP story that focuses on purchases from within children’s games with questionable in-app purchase offerings, particularly “The Smurfs’ Village” game from Capcom. As one example, Kelly Rummelhart of Gridley, Calif has a four-year-old son who racked up nearly $67 in purchases while playing the game by purchasing “Smurfberries,” which are used to accelerate the completion of the game. “Really, my biggest concern was them scratching the screen. Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would be charging things on it,” she said. Notably, her son didn’t purchase the “wheelbarrow” of Smurfberries, which sells for $60 by itself. Other games cited in the story sell similar in-game items for as much as $100 each. Apple does offer parents the ability to restrict in-app purchases from within Settings, and has a 15-minute password window after which a user must re-enter his or her password in order to make another purchase, which it claims are sufficient blocks to unwanted purchases. It appears that not all parents are aware of the restrictions or the password window, however, and according to some, the password window doesn’t always work consistently.

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