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Federal Court Allows Class-Action Suit Against Apple Over In-App Purchases

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the think-of-the-children dept.

Cellphones 279

suraj.sun writes "An iPhone-owner whose daughter downloaded $200 worth of 'Zombie Toxin' and 'Gems' through in-app purchases on his iPhone has been allowed to pursue a class action suit against Apple for compensation of up to $5m. Garen Meguerian of Pennsylvania launched the class-action case against Apple in April 2011 after he discovered that his nine-year-old daughter had been draining his credit card account through in-app purchases on 'free' games including Zombie Cafe and Treasure Story. This month, Judge Edward J Davila in San Jose District Federal Court has allowed the case to go to trial, rejecting Apple's claim that the case should be dismissed. Meguerian claimed that Apple was unfairly targeting children by allowing games geared at kids to push them to make purchases. He describes games that are free to play but require purchases of virtual goods to progress as 'bait apps' and says they should not be aimed at children."

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279 comments

Don't you have to enter your password? (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728547)

I thought that to confirm any in-app purchase, you had to re-enter your password for your Apple ID.

Is this not the case with some apps?

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (4, Informative)

Elgonn (921934) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728565)

You do have to enter a password but it does cache it for a short time. So in theory a parent making a purchase and handing an iOS device to a child could enable the child to make purchases at will for a short time.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728583)

But not $200 of them. And, of course, this can all be controlled via parental controls built-in to iOS.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728591)

You do have to enter a password but it does cache it for a short time. So in theory a parent making a purchase and handing an iOS device to a child could enable the child to make purchases at will for a short time.

And if $200 is draining your credit card, maybe its time to rethink having an iPhone.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (4, Insightful)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728989)

maybe its time to rethink having an iPhone

Best suggestion I've heard so far.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729395)

Did Apple bully you as a kid? Did Apple date your mom and forced you to grow with your single drunk father?

You seem to have too much of a personal grudge with Apple here.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (4, Informative)

am 2k (217885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728605)

In practice, the child most likely had the password. Note that you can also disable in-app purchases in the settings (and protect that setting with a different password).

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729253)

In practice, the child most likely had the password.

This.

Look, I normally count as the last one to defend Apple for anything, but seriously?

Guy gives his daughter a way to rack up bills, she does so, he pleads ignorance. Gimme a frickin' break! "Parenting" means more than buying an expensive pacifier.

Pay the damned bill, spank the little brat raw, and both of you take a lesson from this.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729407)

spank the little brat raw

You're the type of person that beats up his wife.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (4, Insightful)

s.petry (762400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729521)

While not entirely without merit, the problem is not so easily dismissed.

Remember back 20 years ago when a company could not say things that were deceptive and/or false without getting in to trouble? Well, welcome to the real world of today where it's normal to take advantage of people.

What really happens on the games is that there is no message of anything except for the game asking for a password. Unless you read page 9374 of the TOS and EULA for the game at download time, you would not know that someone was about to sock your account for anything. The game does not have to tell you that it is going to charge your account. It simply asks for a password.

Companies can tell you that you won something, and when you fill out the form to get the prize they switch your service and charge you money. They could also give you nothing, sell your information to a marketing company for 10c and make sure your text messages eat up your data plan.

Unfortunately, it's a very dirty world we are in. There is a lot of blame to go around.

Should the kid be taught a lesson regarding finance and the dangers of scams and scammers? Sure

but spanked because they got screwed over by an adult that prays on people for a living? Hardly.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (4, Informative)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728643)

iOS does give the parent the ability to set up the phone/ipad/ipod to require password every single transaction without wait window. It also provides a way for you to entirely disable the ability to consume In-App Purchases, so you can rest assured the kid is not asking you for the password for anything but the initial app.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

bluescrn (2120492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728645)

Yeah, it stays logged in for about 15mins. This is probably a bodge to make it easier to re-try downloads that fail when, for example, Apple change the T+Cs on the App Store (every few weeks) and force you to accept new ones before you can download/update anything....

Very annoying that you can't even *update* an app, or download a free app without entering your App Store password.

I really with they're remove these exploitative 'not really free' apps from the Free Apps list... But no, they make Apple money...

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (3, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728979)

Every time this topic comes up I wonder if telephone companies have ever been sued like this over kids racking up huge bills via long-distance and toll numbers.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729523)

People will sue for anything, the question is whether they won. In other recent news, US troops sue phone company for expensive calls [utsandiego.com]

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729295)

The settings already existed in an iPhone to change the time the password is cached, or to disable it entirely. The iPhone has had the ability to restrict this for a long time - it's entirely this guy's fault for not looking through the settings on his phone.

And even if some apps are targeting children, there is nothing wrong with making the download free and then charging money to advance. On top of that, suing Apple because other iPhone developers use this tactic is misdirection aimed at getting attention through headlines.

This case has no merit unless he can prove that those games are actually addictive, they intentionally target children using illegal marketing tactics, and that all of it is Apple's fault.

Next!

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

MisterSquid (231834) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728593)

I thought that to confirm any in-app purchase, you had to re-enter your password for your Apple ID.

This is true, but the guy's password was "12345".

In other news Garen Meguerian is also suing Mel Brooks and MGM for making Spaceballs.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728765)

And Samsonite for making his luggage...

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729537)

And my luggage.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728635)

Yes and no.

By default, you only need to enter your password every 15 minutes in the iTunes app for purchases. This is convenient if you're buying a lot of apps (you don't have to keep entering your password over and over), but if you buy your kid the Smurf's Village app and then immediately hand him or her your phone, that kid has a 10-15 minute window to buy up all the Smurfberries he can click without having to enter in your password! And Smurfberries are surprisingly expensive [gigaom.com] .

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (4, Informative)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728693)

Prior to the iOS 4.3 update in March 2011, there was a 15-minute grace period after you entered your password where you didn't have to enter it again. Following some complaints that were similar to this plaintiff's, Apple changed it so that there was an option to make passwords mandatory every time, rather than having a grace period. And if you did choose to keep the grace period enabled, they made it so that your first in-app purchase in that grace period would require you to re-enter the password.

Effectively, this closed the "hole" that the plaintiff's daughter used (well, to be fair, Apple can't fix bad parenting), wherein the parent downloaded an app, entered their password, and the child managed to ring up $200 worth of in-app purchases in 15 minutes or less. The plaintiff here filed suit in April 2011, shortly after the issue came to light in the press and after it had already been fixed by Apple.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (3, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728955)

"The plaintiff here filed suit in April 2011, shortly after the issue came to light in the press and after it had already been fixed by Apple."

If that is the case, then this is nothing more than extortion by the plaintiff. If Apple addressed the issue quickly and effectively then there is no "lawsuit" needed nor warranted, especially if it is class action.

Additionally, the "father" is not worthy of that title. If he couldn't trust his daughter to not buy "in-app" upgrades, she shouldn't have a friggin iPhone to start with. If it was an accident, then the guy should have made the daughter work off the debt and learn the valuable lesson that nothing is free in life. But rather than deal with the daughter's selfish behavior, he is trying to reward her with a "get rich quick" scheme.

Douchebags like that need to be humiliated (if that is even possible) into shame for total lack of parental skills.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729005)

You will definitely not hear any disagreement from me on that. I'm firmly in the camp that believes that you can't enforce good parenting, and that there's no substitute for it. In my mind, Apple's pre-iOS 4.3 policy was fine as it was. The only parents apparently suffering from it are the types who are content to let the TV teach their children.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (0)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729229)

Douchebags like that need to be humiliated (if that is even possible) into shame for total lack of parental skills.

Wow, this is how an Apple fanboy thinks?

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729449)

Is it bad to think bad parental skills need to be humiliated?

Do you believe we should bow down to people with bad parental skills?

Is it because you keep getting drunk in front of your kids?

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729351)

You don't really understand how lawsuits work do you. Just because it's fixed doesn't mean people that were affected prior to the fix have no recourse.

Sure you bought a car model that was prone to burst into flames, but we fixed that just last month. Sorry you had to get badly burned prior to the fix.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729429)

"The plaintiff here filed suit in April 2011, shortly after the issue came to light in the press and after it had already been fixed by Apple."

If that is the case, then this is nothing more than extortion by the plaintiff. If Apple addressed the issue quickly and effectively then there is no "lawsuit" needed nor warranted, especially if it is class action.

If I read right before, the guy even had Apple revert all charges. This guy is suing just in "principle" not actual damaged to himself (other than potential distress and window of bad credit.)

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729455)

If he couldn't trust his daughter to not buy "in-app" upgrades, she shouldn't have a friggin iPhone to start with.

In his defense, he bought his daughter what, I assume, looked like a fun and free game for a child. It said "Free" on Apple's App Store, after all. I assume he didn't check beforehand to see how the game worked (ie, it required purchasing trinkets).

I can understand where the guy is coming from and I think it behooves Apple to note games that use In-App purchases right there next to the price. Maybe even give an "average purchase price" of how much people who've bought the game have spent on In-App purchases.

That said, a $5 million class-action lawsuit?! That's getting a bit ridiculous.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729657)

So these days the world is full of these fremium apps and yet somehow that is apple's fault and not the fault of the people making the apps?

Why not sue the developer, you know, the one that made the app, created a (presumably) deceptive money making scheme and made all of the actual money from these purchases.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

bug_hunter (32923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729675)

I think it behooves Apple to note games that use In-App purchases right there next to the price. Maybe even give an "average purchase price" of how much people who've bought the game have spent on In-App purchases.

As an App developer I would love this!
I made an app once that was primarily a platform for subscription data, it gave away a few demo bits of data for free but not much. The idea was then the user purchases the data relevant to them.
There were many angry reviews saying "rip off - it says free but then you have to buy stuff". In my app description I made it very clear it was in-app purchase driven (even showing screenshots of the purchase screen) but at the end of the day it just said "Free" when you clicked to download it.

If I could have made it said "In App Purchase Driven - Avg Price $2" I think it would have gone down a lot better. You can see "most popular in-app purchases" from the iTunes screen, but the dev can't distinguish between - content platform, demo or full application with tiny dlc next to that all important "free" button.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

Leafheart (1120885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729565)

Additionally, the "father" is not worthy of that title. If he couldn't trust his daughter to not buy "in-app" upgrades, she shouldn't have a friggin iPhone to start with. If it was an accident, then the guy should have made the daughter work off the debt and learn the valuable lesson that nothing is free in life. But rather than deal with the daughter's selfish behavior, he is trying to reward her with a "get rich quick" scheme.

As much as I despise bad parenting, and think that it is one of the worst problems we have in the "modern world", there is something that might be in case here. How clear it is that you are buying something on the app? I do not own an iPhone (Have a Driod 2), so I can't tell for sure. But, going through what I found on the web on adult games, some developers go out of their way to mascarade that you are buying stuff. IF, and that is a big IF, that is the case with this games, she might have something to pursue. Definitely not at that value, and also it should be not only Apple, but also the developers.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (5, Insightful)

DRJlaw (946416) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729737)

"The plaintiff here filed suit in April 2011, shortly after the issue came to light in the press and after it had already been fixed by Apple."

If that is the case, then this is nothing more than extortion by the plaintiff. If Apple addressed the issue quickly and effectively then there is no "lawsuit" needed nor warranted, especially if it is class action.

You do realize that you have at least 1-2 years in which to file a suit after you've been injured, so that filing a class action after you discover that you and a bunch of other people were injured is not extortion, but rational and appropriate. Its also far easier to justify a hiring a lawyer to pursue a case where a large number of people have been harmed then to either hire a lawyer to pursue a case worth only $200, or learn how to navigate small claims court on your own.

Also, define "quickly" and "effectively" -- these sorts of games pretty much existed in the app store from the get-go, and IOS 4.3 was released in March 2011. The iPad was released in April 2010, which ignores all the phones that came before it. Shall we google for the first complaints from iPhone users, or is 11 months sufficiently beyond "quickly" for you?

Additionally, the "father" is not worthy of that title. If he couldn't trust his daughter to not buy "in-app" upgrades, she shouldn't have a friggin iPhone to start with.

Screw you. I've bought an iPad for a four year old. Four year olds barely understand the concept of "money," much less what an in app purchase is. Fortunately it was an iPad 2, I'd read about the issue, and I configured the thing to always require a password (as well as to disable in app purchases, although frankly that just makes the times that you want to make them far more painful -- 1 password vs. exit, settings, restrictions, pin, switch, double-home, app, password).

You want to reward Apple (gatekeeper/reviewer of all, for a healthy 30%) and software developers like Zynga by freeing them from any responsibility to learn their own lesson and modify their own "get rich quick schemes." The parent and child deserve at least some blame, but the experts (i.e., Apple and developers) were being predatory and quite blameworthy. Is Apple's defense at trial going to be "we couldn't possibly foresee this issue since none of us have children"? Apple is all about the user experience, but does anyone other than an idiot, an addict, or a child buy a $99 consumable immediately after buying a "free" game? I'd love to see a demographic study of what goes on here.

It's irrelevant how much of a technical genius and/or disciplinarian you may be -- the law protects consumers who are average citizens from unconscionable acts, such as where a seller takes advantage of consumers "lack of knowledge, ability, experience, or capacity to a grossly unfair degree." (Use your mad skills to Google the phrase)

First time iPhone/iPad buyers are not going to have the knowledge or experience to know that their purchase password not only is cached to allow other app store purchases, but cached to allow in app purchases as well. First time iPhone/iPad buyers are not going to that there is an option to turn in-app purchases off. You buy an app for your kid, you hand the iPad to the kid to play the app once it's installed. Not 15 minutes later. You buy a free app, you don't expect progress in the app to essentially require you to buy "a basket of coins" for $99.

If people were such geniuses, then the default configuration would be require passwords to be entered immediately, and possibly to delve into the settings to enable in-app purchases. That's the more secure and fail safe configuration, after all. Why is that not the default? Because your average person is not a genius, does not have time to read a user manual, and learns by use and experiance. If they become annoyed, they might look for setting to change, but they might *GASP* just give up on the device. Since that would cost Apple money (rather than costing their customers money), those can't be the defaults. Perfectly understandable.

Or not. That's what the court gets to work out.

If it was an accident, then the guy should have made the daughter work off the debt and learn the valuable lesson that nothing is free in life. But rather than deal with the daughter's selfish behavior, he is trying to reward her with a "get rich quick" scheme.

How is the father getting rich and the daughter being rewarded? I think we deserve an explanation here.

Douchebags like that need to be humiliated (if that is even possible) into shame for total lack of parental skills.

So long as you can find fault on one side, you don't need to examine fault on the other, eh?

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729499)

the child managed to ring up $200 worth of in-app purchases in 15 minutes or less.

With some of those games offering tokens/credits/whatever for $100 at a time, it's not hard to imagine.

Re:Don't you have to enter your password? (1)

Wild_dog! (98536) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729623)

Bingo.... my kids have yet to make their own purchase since they don't know the password. I do all of the app purchases after they have gone to bed.
Sounds like the kids got hold of dad's password somehow, but apple can't be responsible for the kids using dad's password if he can't keep it from them.
Plus $5m damages for 200 bucks seems a bit over the top.

I love Apple NOT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728551)

It is great that Apple does not allow porn but instead allows for exploitation of children...

You're in serious denial (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728555)

You talking to me? Who here talks to God? You talking back? You seem confused about who's in trouble with authority!

iCoupons (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728575)

That's what most people will get - coupons for future app purchases. The lawyers, of course will get plenty of cash.

Same shit different day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728579)

Back in middle school I ran up a $200 phone bill on my dad's phone line calling some 900 numbers (bet you can guess which kind). Kids emptying their parent's wallets through stupidity is nothing new. If we're going to start having regulations on "child-targetted" applications and games, it's just a step away from the sort of anti-video-game legislation we're all so worried about. Sucks to be dad, should have set a PIN on your phone.

Re:Same shit different day (1)

Brian Feldman (350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728611)

I don't think you understand what a game is if you think something that requires infinite in-game purchases to persist for the user is a game.

Re:Same shit different day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728701)

You're right, I don't understand... how you got put in charge of defining what a "game" is.

Re:Same shit different day (1)

Brian Feldman (350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728755)

Enjoy your Farmville "game," friend.

Re:Same shit different day (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728969)

I don't think you understand what a game is if you think something that requires infinite in-game purchases to persist for the user is a game.

I don't think you understand what people constitute as "entertainment" these days.

Case in point: The entire MTV schedule.

'nuff said.

Re:Same shit different day (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728973)

I don't think you understand what a game is if you think something that requires infinite in-game purchases to persist for the user is a game.

Oh, it's a game alright - just a matter of who is playing who...

You can buy a lot of ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728589)

... the apple macbook fragrance for $5mil

smells like victory

I don't understand the case... (3, Interesting)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728595)

Apple is not the one "selling" the apps and then charging with IAP, the software developers are.

It also happens in Facebook, and desktop, heck.... Valve has been doing it for a while with Team Fortress 2.

So why go after Apple?

Don't take me wrong, I really hope this case goes somewhere. I hate the Free2Play model where they take advantage of ignorant kids or people with compulsive behaviors. I just feel this lawsuit is miss-directed, Zynga and it's peers are the ones that should be targeted.

I will not oppose, though, if Apple decides or is forced to remove "consumable" IAP from the app store, or force apps that require them to charge an up-front fee that removes the visibility advantage these pocket predators have by being free up-front.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728641)

So why go after Apple?

Because Apple did it and it is wrong.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728677)

How did they do it wrong? By default they ask for a password. They also give the parent tools to entirely turn IAP off, or require password on every transaction.

How did Apple did it wrong (that Facebook or Valve did not?)

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728759)

How did Apple did it wrong (that Facebook or Valve did not?)

Oh, I don't know, maybe it's something like putting pictures of teddy bears on packages of cigarettes? Maybe Facebook and Valve are in the wrong as well, I don't know. That in no way would absolve Apple.

Re:I don't understand the case... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728797)

you dumb or something?

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728995)

How did they do it wrong? By default they ask for a password. They also give the parent tools to entirely turn IAP off, or require password on every transaction.

How did Apple did it wrong (that Facebook or Valve did not?)

I could be wrong here, but my understanding is that the device in question was still running iOS 4.3, which does NOT give you the option of requiring a password with every transaction. They corrected that with later releases.

As far as FB or Valve, give it time...that's what a little thing called "legal precedent" is for. It's doubtful they really did anything all that different, but will likely be reliant upon the outcome of this case.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729391)

Dude, he didn't say Apple did it wrong. He said Apple did it <pause> and it is wrong. It was a flippant reply to "why go after Apple", so don't expect a serious response.

Re:I don't understand the case... (4, Insightful)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728697)

And what Apple is accused of doing is "allowing games geared at kids to push them to make purchases." Apple is no common carrier, Apple exercises control over every app sold through its store. And is therefore responsible for the app, including any immoral, unethical or downright illegal inducement of children to enter into financial transactions.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1, Insightful)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728901)

Good theory, except none of those things apply here.

Re:I don't understand the case... (0)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729333)

nice one. care to back that up with some facts for us? i love hyperbole, but you can't live on hyperbole alone.

Re:I don't understand the case... (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728985)

>>>Because [this is bash Apple Day].

Fixed that for you. ;-) I suspect the case argues Apple is responsible for the items it gives-away in its store, just the same as Walmart is responsible if it gave-away free items that later suckered kids into spending money to play the item.

BTW I don't expect the dad to win this case.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729019)

I don't expect the dad to win this case.

When judges certify actions it is because they believe there is a significant possibility of success.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729367)

No, it simply means he has no enough knowledge or information to determine the case frivolous, therefore he is giving the plaintiff a chance to prove his point in court, while also allowing the defendant to... well defend himself.

Re:I don't understand the case... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729663)

The only way there would be a chance of success is if you were the judge.

Re:I don't understand the case... (3, Interesting)

KPU (118762) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728667)

So why go after Apple?

If there's a problem with a walled garden, blame the gardener. Otherwise, don't put a wall up in the first place.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728741)

The problem is not in the garden, it's in the flower seeds that are also sold down the street :P

Again, I actually hope this case does bring some changes and don't mind if Apple is hurt in the process (they are big boys, they can take it) but fear this may fall through due to them targeting the wrong party. But right now, Valve, Google and Facebook are equally guilty because all allow free apps/games with IAP.

Re:I don't understand the case... (0, Flamebait)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728749)

Well, given that the walled garden has controls that stop someone getting at the tools, and have separate controls that prevent purchases in the first place (parental controls on iOS devices, password to AppleID needed to make purchases in the first place) then I'm not sure what the problem is?

That Apple didn't tell this guy he should have maybe enabled parental controls for in app/any purchases? That maybe he shouldn't have linked his credit card to the Apple ID his kid uses?

How is this different to some guy suing Mastercard because his kid ran up a giant bill during a spending spree if you have authorised him to make purchases on your account with no limit?

Re:I don't understand the case... (4, Insightful)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729525)

Well, given that the walled garden has controls that stop someone getting at the tools, and have separate controls that prevent purchases in the first place (parental controls on iOS devices, password to AppleID needed to make purchases in the first place) then I'm not sure what the problem is?

That Apple didn't tell this guy he should have maybe enabled parental controls for in app/any purchases? That maybe he shouldn't have linked his credit card to the Apple ID his kid uses?

How is this different to some guy suing Mastercard because his kid ran up a giant bill during a spending spree if you have authorised him to make purchases on your account with no limit?

As has been pointed out numerous times in other replies, this occurred before Apple added any of that functionality to iOS. At the time this happened, there was a 15 minute grace period after entering your password where it was not required again. There wasn't a way to turn that off. The best you could do was log out of the app store after the app downloaded and installed. That assumed you were aware of the issue in the first place. While you and I are aware of the issue, we are not your typical iPod owner either.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

agm (467017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728763)

If you don't like what happens inside a walled garden, don't enter it in the first place. Last time I looked no one is forcing you to.

How can a responsible parent not be aware of what their children does on an internet connected device?

Re:I don't understand the case... (2)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729331)

Do your parents moniter your internet usage?

Because responisible don't look over the kids shoulder 24/7. They allow the kids to be trusted with something.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1, Insightful)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729433)

You trust them with something because you teach them responsibility.

Should I be able to sue a car company if my child crashes my car? Should I be able to sue Bieber because he entices my child to buy his albums? This is purely a case about personal responsibility and it is the parent's responsibility to endow responsibility in their children, and the must deal with the consequences together.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728673)

Apple is the one who runs the store and stores the CC info which allows the card to be charged. And Apple takes a 30% cut.

Re:I don't understand the case... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728721)

Apple gets a cut of the purchases, and while it has the ability to limit what these apps can do with your account/CC info, it has no incentive to do so. If Apple were not getting a cut of the proceeds, and was not in control of what apps go through their store, then they would be innocent of wrongdoing. However, this is Apple, which is built around controlling their walled garden and taking a cut of every financial transaction in which one of its products is even peripherally involved with.

Re:I don't understand the case... (-1, Troll)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729189)

So why go after Apple?

Because Apple has almost $100 billion in the bank so they are a juicy target for a dad who wants to get rich blaming someone for his being a bad father and not actually being involved in raising his child.

Sorry for blending two rants into one but there it is. Apple is a target of so many lawsuits because they have the cash to make people rich. Period. Also, I'm fed up with parents trying to blame other people for their failings as a parent. Being a parent requires effort and time and is more than just giving your kid an iDevice or sitting them in front of a TV with a DVD looping some brainless kid's program so when things go wrong because you're an absent parent, don't blame the iDevice or the kids show or the TV. Look in the mirror.

Re:I don't understand the case... (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729311)

Apple can't have it both ways.

if they had a free model of the app store, they would not be responsible.

by censoring and signing off on _every_ app on that store, they are effectively taking responsibility for it. especially with in-app purchasing, which they watch very closely to make sure they get their cut everywhere they can.

$5m fir $200? (2)

RPGillespie (2478442) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728599)

The guy wants 5 million dollars because his daughter spent $200? If I had done that I would've lost use of the iPhone and would have to mow lots of lawns to pay them back. Whatever happened to parenting?

Re:$5m fir $200? (3, Insightful)

fafaforza (248976) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728661)

Don't you get it? He's standing up for all the parents in the US that were fleeced of tens of dollars. Learn the options of the device and set limits? It shouldn't be my responsibility to control my child.

clueless harried parents (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729493)

I'm a technical guy. You can bet if I owned an iPhone I'd know all the settings inside and out. However, it's not reasonable to expect a non-technical user of a technical device to know every setting on the phone, or even that the settings exist.

Also...I'm a parent of two small boys. They don't get a lot of TV, and they don't get a lot of time with electronic devices, but sometimes it's fun to let them play with something for a few minutes--in fact, my mom gives them her iPhone a few times a month as a treat.

It is not reasonable to expect that the kids are 100% supervised every minute of every day, and my 3-year-old can fire up his favorite games in a few seconds, so it's not too far-fetched to consider that a kid might be able to incur significant costs without the parent being a douchebag.

Re:$5m fir $200? (3, Informative)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728663)

It's class damages, not that he incurred a $5million damage. If Apple takes even 1% of the revenue off in-app purchases, then they've made far more than $5 million anyway.

Re:$5m fir $200? (1)

edjs (1043612) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729361)

And in the end, the law firm will earn a few million in fees, and the members of the class will each get a $10 app store credit.

Apple maturing as a corporation (1, Funny)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728623)

Apple moving from underage workers [tuaw.com] to underage customers.

The parent is responsible (3, Insightful)

agm (467017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728743)

He describes games that are free to play but require purchases of virtual goods to progress as 'bait apps' and says they should not be aimed at children."

I agree completely. However, I think it's a parent's responsibility to ensure apps their children use are suitable. If this parent did not do this then that's their fault. I am very conscious of what apps my children use and I vet them all.

Apple is not responsible for what your children do - you are.

Re:The parent is responsible (2)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728879)

Well, in this case, it appears the parent is *irresponsible*

Re:The parent is responsible (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729491)

Have to disagree. Did you ever read Hitchhiker's Guide? When Arthur complains about the fact that Earth was destroyed without warning, he was told "Nonsense, the plans have clearly been on display for months in the basement of the court house on Alpha Centuri".

There are simply too many places to check to ensure that an app doesn't have some means of doing something like this. There are also too many settings on a device such as the iPhone for someone who isn't in the business to find and change all of them.

If an application has logic that allows one to buy things during the game, particularly if it is a free children's app, they have to disclose that up front in a conspicuous manner. Anything else is sleezy behavior on the part of the app publisher hoping that they can slide one by without people noticing.

In terms of suing Apple, well, they are the ones who created the walled garden and told users that they can trust what Apple allows to go into the garden. Don't make that promise if you're not willing to live with the consequences.

Re:The parent is responsible (2)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729553)

I am very conscious of what apps my children use and I vet them all.

So, let me get this straight. If your daughter wanted to play some game, you would buy it, download it, and play it a few dozen times before letting her even come near it? Or would you probably just check out the description and screen shots in the App Store and figure, "Yeah, looks okay."

The point is that the description didn't say anything about In-App purchases. The price of the game was marked as "Free." It's a reasonable assumption that he's not going to have pay anything more for the game.

Don't get me wrong--the whole "Class Action Lawsuit" thing is pure BS. And I believe Apple has made changes to solve this "problem." I believe Apple may have reimbursed him for his charges. So why bother with the lawsuit other than to get money?

Re:The parent is responsible (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729617)

Yes and no. You're responsible if you're negligent, but that can be difficult to prove, and the parent may have had a reasonable expectation that the in-app purchase would be protected by his password. That said, I think he's covering for the fact that he gave his kid the password.

But more to the point, children aren't legally responsible for credit card use (or pretty much anything) anyway. The only thing the parent had to do is call the credit card company and dispute the charge(s), or worst case put it in writing, and the CC company would do a charge back.

Re:The parent is responsible (1)

adversus (1451933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729739)

That's akin to saying cereal shouldn't have sugar if it's aimed at kids.

A 9 year old usually can't walk in to a grocery store and buy a $6 box of Sugar-Cocaine-Pops without their parents knowing, and any parent with an ounce of common sense would let their child run free on a device that you can keep charging cash to.

And seriously, this guy didn't notice charges appearing on his credit card THAT HE USES ONLINE as it "drained"? I don't know about you, but any credit card # I put online for purchases I monitor like a fucking hawk with the amount of identity theft that's been going around.

Three Hands (1, Interesting)

bogie (31020) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728779)

On the one hand I think parents should police what their kids are doing. But is it required for them to play every game themselves and make sure it isn't one can easily charge you money? Answer that for yourself but don't be too knee-jerk about how nobody wants to take responsibility for themselves anymore.

On the other hand I hate these "bait"/"Freeium" apps that have taken over. They are a blight on the gaming world imho. Some people like getting something for free. I'd rather pay a little and know thats the final amount and get a finished game. The whole sell a partial game/buy DLC to finish it is crap.

On the other other hand I have little sympathy for Apple as they are absurdly lawsuit happy, plus they love to step on the little guy which I've never been a fan of.

Re:Three Hands (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728923)

On the other other hand, I'd rather pay nothing to play a terrible game, than $10.

Re:Three Hands (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729393)

agreed - even really popular apps from AAA companies will underplay the 'real' price of a game, if it can net more sales - I'm looking at you, Rockstar! I can confirm that the 15 minute grace period is something that wasn't really spelled out, especially while purchasing, and it surprised me the first time too, since it applies to ALL instances of itunes purchases: apps, music, video, in-app...it's not unreasonable to assume that a slightly non-tech-savvy parent wouldn't know the particulars of an in-app purchase system, especially when that information is not spelled out on an app page, or anywhere immediately visible; therefore it's not unreasonable for apple to be sued for it. They shoulda just reimbursed the guy. Good customer service is worth the occasional shrinkage. I'm also fairly certain ~$200 is less than ~$5,000,000. Here's hoping someone in their legal department is steaming over having to handle such a clear-cut customer service mistake.

Re:Three Hands (3, Interesting)

digitallife (805599) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729421)

There's a very simple reason developers are tending towards 'freemium' games: it makes more money (at least on ios). Let's be honest, as much as a developer may love making an app, if they are to invest the time and resources required to make it good, they need to get paid. So their options are ad supported, which often doesn't pay very well, a non-free app, which often won't get many downloads (unless you're a marketing guru), or IAP. IAP have the benefit of allowing a free app which gets lots of downloads, the possibility of ad generated revenue that can be disabled for a fee if the user wants, and the option for the USER to determine how much they want to give. It's (theoretically) win/win for developer and customer.

However, the kids apps are absolutely horrible. The apps themselves are usually quick hack jobs with some manipulative child psychology tricks in them. Adults often hate them and can't stand them, but the kids love them and beg and cry to get them. Then they dress up IAP in pretty buttons and what not so every thing the kid clicks on brings up a purchase window and the kid bugs the heck out of the parents to fix it... One slip on the parents part and they accidentally make a purchase.

Honestly, they need to go after the lecherous developers that make that trash, rather than ask apple to censor (yet more) apps from the app store.

some games used to hide the real money part or (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729453)

some games used to hide the real money part or make it seem like in game cash. Now they have to use the IOS / system screens to use real money.

Now a game can make it seem like you are buying with in game funds. Now think what in back in the day with simcity 2000 the loans ended costing real money and they did ticks to hide that.

Re:Three Hands (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729655)

I write iOS apps on the side for a decent sized iOS dev company. Apple has pretty much forced the freemium model on all of us.

Bad Dad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39728785)

You let a machine babysit your child, that machine happened to be connected to your Credit Card, blame the software for the fault... profit

Only in America

Next thing you know he'll be after those candy companies which push sweets into the mouths of babes with their flashy kid-focused advertising and low, low prices.

Re:Bad Dad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729571)

Only in America

No, actually, this sounds like a consumer protection issue.
If a program that appears to be targeted at children is not adequately labelled as enabling in-game purchases, or if it is not obvious to the user when a purchase is taking place, or if the program encourages or does not adequately prevent the user from inadvertently making such purchases, then it would certainly warrant an investigation by the consumer protection agency, at least in my tiny European country.

Not to say Apple is guilty here, just saying it is reasonable that the parties get to present their case in court.

I don't know how these games are labelled in the App Store, but I doubt I myself would suspect that an innocent looking children's game marked as "Free" could contain a nasty surprise like that, if I had not already read numerous stories like this one.

parenting? (0)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39728977)

Sounds like another good example of people wanting the world to do their parenting for them. "My kid's doing something I don't like, and you're helping them do it! This is all your fault!" No, we're not stopping them, and neither are you. Keeping a handle on what your kids do is your responsibility, not mine. Start being a more responsible parent.

You gave them the password to your cc-bound account, you didn't effectively train them in what is acceptable and what is not, and you didn't keep track of their purchases. You failed start, middle, and end. You denied your responsibility, expecting "someone else" to take care of your child for you, and now you are responsible for the outcome. I'm glad to see this go to court. This way it will (assuming sanity prevails) establish better precedent for this sort of irresponsibility we read about from time to time.

Re:parenting? (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729061)

Sounds like another good example of people wanting the world to do their parenting for them. "My kid's doing something I don't like, and you're helping them do it! This is all your fault!" No, we're not stopping them, and neither are you. Keeping a handle on what your kids do is your responsibility, not mine. Start being a more responsible parent.

The crux of the issue in this case is whether Apple is allowing games that are designed to induce children to make these purchases. I'm all for parents taking responsible for their children, but I also have no problem punishing nefarious third parties who intentionally take advantage of kids to do something shady.

Re:parenting? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729219)

All games with in-game purchases are designed to entice the user to buy the in-game perks. Age doesn't matter. All that matters is who has control of the credit card. A parent that gives their kid access to their card is responsible for how they use it, whether they like it or not.

Parent gives kid a BB-gun, kid shoots their dog in the eye, parent tries to blame Daisy. NO

Quit trying to make me your kid's guardian. Accept your responsibility.

Re:parenting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729283)

Surely there limits to this approach, though? I mean, I don't think it's completely unfair for a parent to expect minimally ethical behavior from the world.

If I don't tell my kid not to play in the street and they are hit by a car, that's my fault. If I tell my kid not to play in the street, and they do anyway, and they get hit by a car, blame is shared by the kid and me. But if I tell my kid not to play in the street and they obey but get hit by a car driving down the sidewalk, then I think the driver gets 100% of the blame. In this case maybe the father was foolish to expect ethical behavior from a free game, and maybe he was or was not foolish to not have his phone set up properly (I have a 1st generation iPhone and have no idea what people are talking about with all these parental controls) but would it really be so bad to tell businessmen that they couldn't exploit children for money using hidden fees in children's games? Is that particular activity so necessary for a free society, so beneficial, that it must be protected?

I guess I just don't see the harm in what he is doing, even if he is at fault. I don't see this as a legitimate business plan. If you can't afford to give away kid's games, then make games for adults and keep charging them. If you need to target kids then aren't you kind of admitting that nobody with a fully developed mind would buy your product? Maybe we do not need your business to exist, then.

This cuts both ways... (0)

muecksteiner (102093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729057)

On the one hand, this looks like a typical ambulance chaser lawsuit, with fairly ridiculous demands being made, given the amount of "damage" that was actually inflicted. $200 vs. $5m - come on?

On the other hand, enabling the kid to easily (?) waste that much money via an iOS app is of course not o.k. on the part of Apple, given that nowadays you cannot expect that a commodity article like a smartphone will not end up being extensively used by minors. So the OS has to have reasonable safeguards. And, to be fair to them, it does have quite a number of them. Just apparently not enough of them.

Apple has also been accumulating quite a lot of bad karma for the heavy-handed, intransparent and sometimes downright brainless way they run their iOS walled garden. It stands to reason that quite a lot of people are probably trying to get "even" with them nowadays, just out of spite. So this lawsuit is just one of many, I would guess.

Unrelated (but then again, not *so* unrelated) example of how minors are "protected" in the walled garden:

Apps are apparently flagged as 17+ if they meet a variety of criteria. One of these is apparently price - anything above a certain $$$ is automatically 17+. Fair enough... except that there is only one 17+ category. And the more common reason for something being 17+ is of course... well, you guessed it.

This has led to iGlide Pro, the more expensive pro version of a very nice moving map application for soaring from Butterfly Aero, being classified as 17+. So the info tab for that app in iTunes now reads "frequent nudity" as one of the characteristics of the app. WTF? Nudity? In a moving map application that you use in a glider during flight? Sometimes, it's the little experiences like that which have the potential to ruin the reputation of a company for being capable of doing things properly. If they visibly don't care about things that make them look like asses, what about the other things you can't see?

Pretty low (2)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729097)

This was an obvious case of targeting children. It reminds me of an old case with Soupy Sales asking kids to send him green pieces of paper from their parent's wallets. It was meant as a joke but he got in a lot of trouble. Snopes has a great quote on this subject. I can't copy the paragraph but it starts out "It's easy for those .........."Captain Midnight". The paragraph does an excellent job of stating how corporations have always preyed on children. http://www.snopes.com/radiotv/tv/soupy1.asp [snopes.com]

Showing my age.... (2, Interesting)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729129)

I think the biggest problem isn't the idea that apps created to get money through upgrades exist, but the fact that a nine-year old is given the powers of an expensive phone without the parents having a clue as to what she's doing on it is eyebrow-raising. Am I the only one bugged out when I see middle-schoolers having phones and other gadgets that are worth more than my car? Criminy, my mom wouldn't let me have a phone in my room on the main home line, never mind my OWN phone number.

And as if she didn't know she was doing wrong. Even if a child is immature in the areas of reasoning, I'm assuming any parent here would punish their kid if they found them digging into their wallet to steal cash. How is this any different? You put a LOCK on that shit, wherein any purchases made on your child's phone has to be approved by an adult first. I'm sure there's a method/service that does that. I almost never take the side of corporations like Apple, but in this case, I say the kid is grounded for six months, and double the chores in the house without an allowance. They had their fun, underhandedly. Time for parents to take responsibility for the stuff they buy their kids, especially if they don't intrinsically NEED it to begin with.

problems... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729175)

Before people go nuts defending holy Apple, Apple appears to have played a bad system to their favour.

The system is the billing. I suspect that those in-game purchases were lumped together making it
harder to actually identify what they were. If they were bundled with a iTunes purchase, you may look
at the bill and think "I bought those 96kilobit songs then, that's what it must be."

Rather than honestly noting each in-game purchase on the bill (even separated by 5 seconds) this
billing choice purposely confuses the consumer. And yes, the technology exists for fine granularity of
documenting of these purchases - it was ignored.

This is no different than AOL's months to cancel; rebates that never are rebated, and hundred of other
legal scams out there. I hope he's successful in court.

He missed the obvious step.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729263)

.. Ask for a refund. I used to be a iTS T1 agent. This was common and refunds were made without any questions if people knew who made the purchase (if they didn't, it became credit card fraud)

will be thrown out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39729279)

Then the folks who bought these iPhones for their kids should not of used their Apple ID. Furthermore, it is the parents responsibility to control their children's actions. Leave a kid with an iPhone tied to a credit card what do you think is going to happen?

free apps should not need a password (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729403)

or some system where free stuff should need all kinds of pop ups that paid ones do.

The old SA cable box software had stuff like that where the free VOD made you view a buy screen with price of $0.

The directv software does not have screen like that on the free VOD and only the pay stuff has the do you want to buy pop up.

Parenting (0)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39729599)

Why be a good parent when you can just sue someone else for being incompetent at it?

Good role model there too.

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