Apple refunds epic in-app purchase bill to unaware parents
Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 6:36pm
UK Parents Greg and Sharon Kitchen will be getting a "full refund" following an initial refusal by Apple over an incident where their five-year-old son Danny "unintentionally" purchased over $2,500 in in-app game purchases from free iPad game Zombies versus Ninja. The couple claim that the boy purchased 19 high-priced consumable packs for the game, which cost £70 ($106) each -- along with a few smaller purchases -- all within the 15 minute window after the father had keyed in his password authorizing the original download of the game.
According to Sharon Kitchen, "On Sunday afternoon Danny asked my husband for the passcode. We had lots of visitors in the house and were both a little preoccupied. I recall my husband saying 'No - what is it for?' and Danny said 'It's OK, it's a free one, dad'. So my husband keyed in the passcode."
The following day, the iTunes invoices started arriving in the couple's email. The invoices were initially ignored as a mistake, as the bank account associated with the account showed no activity. The family was clued in to the event when the bank called "asking if 19 transactions of £69.99 each were normal." Two days later, the total spent by the child finalized at £1,700 ($2,580).
Although Apple has a number of pre-existing safeguards in place to prevent such accidental purchases -- including parental controls, dialogs confirming the purchase and how much will be spent, and having closed the no-password-required window nearly two years ago -- it called the boy's spending spree "clearly unintentional" and agreed to refund the money.
Mrs. Kitchen added that "When I realized I called my husband and asked him to sort this out. It was far too easy a thing for [Danny] to do and more should be done to limit stuff like this from happening." Apple closed the "password window" that allowed users to continue purchasing items for up to 15 minutes after keying in their password with the release of iOS 4.3 in early March of 2011. Presumably, the family never upgraded their iOS version from the one it shipped with, nor were they apparently aware of the possibility of in-app game purchases -- though this explanation strains credulity, as the couple have four other, older children.
Apple originally did not issue a refund, citing a bevy of actions the parents failed to take or outright circumvented to prevent the purchases from happening. The Apple response noted Parental Controls' ability to restrict access to content and age-rated content, the option to completely disable in-app purchases, and a recommendation to not share the account password inappropriately, which was the case in this incident. The game is actually rated 9+, and not recommended for children under that age.