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UK Gov To Investigate 'Aggressive' In-app Purchases

timothy posted 1 year,5 days | from the buy-this-now dept.

Government 152

hypnosec writes "The UK Government will be examining whether free to download apps are putting unfair pressure on kids to pay up for additional content within the game through in-app purchases. Office of Fair Trading (OFT), UK, will be carrying out the investigation of games that include 'commercially aggressive' in-app purchases after a number of cases have been reported whereby parents have incurred huge bills after their kids have spent huge amounts on in-app purchases."

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152 comments

Your kid, spending your money . . . (0, Flamebait)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439287)

. . . should not be the government's problem.

Ah, parents these days . . . and their children . . . most of the time they're somebody else's problem.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (4, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439313)

This is myopic, and I bet you are not a parent. In fact I bet you're probably still a kid, with that attitude.

It is not a new trend that companies make it easy to spend huge amounts of money before a parent knows what's going on. Buying a kid a toy used to be a safe bet, the purchase of the item was the sum total of the toy's price. Nowadays, every device has a built in app-store or similar functionality and a credit card is required to even make the device function (why does Apple require a credit card to download free apps or update apps that you've already paid for?!).

Expecting parents to be looking over the shoulder of their kids, who are still too young to have developed the ability to fully comprehend the consequences of spending 50c every few minutes over the span of a month, is unreasonable, and companies that engage in predatory sales in this manner should not be given a free pass on the back of the "well parents should be looking after their kids" argument.

I owned and ran a cell phone shop for 10 years, and one of the most frequent complaints was parents giving a "safety phone" to their kids at age 15 only to rack up huge bills on premium ringtone services. Sure, those kids should probably have been on prepaid, but that does not clear the companies charging $5 per ringtone, and then auto subscribing the number to a $5/day new ringtone service of responsibility. Yes, this happened, just like I'm describing it.

Companies feeding on the impulsiveness of children should be strung up and flogged. So should Apple, for making it a requirement that a credit card be entered into the phone at all times.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (5, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439325)

Except it is not 50c every few minutes. In some cases it is £69.99 ($99.99 at Apple exchange rates) every few minutes.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (0)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439345)

Actually, the problem is giving kids access to unlimited credit. Prepaid cards would not have this problem at all.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439933)

The real problem is after hundreds of years of trying to make a civilized world/society where you don't have to keep watching for predators all the time, you still get assholes who ruin things for everyone.

Not saying we should turn the world into a safe theme park but these people know exactly what they are doing - preying on the weak. Some may say who cares about the weak, but us humans have got where we are not by being the strongest badass creature in the world. Or even the smartest. Yes we're smart but it's not what makes a country great. We've got where we are by working together and not backstabbing each other at every opportunity.

A country full of smart people backstabbing each other doesn't get very far. A lot of those nice places to live in are nice because they're not full of swindlers, thieves and backstabbers. And so making life harder for such people is not something I'd lose sleep over. Give them half a chance and they might "progress" to investment banking...

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439361)

Just for the record Apple does not require a credit card for using your phone, your computer or even the itunes store. If you want you can open a prepaid account (for free) that needs to be fed itunes vouchers to order something.

And this was precisely done to prevent kids to overspend on their itunes account. At least that's how it was presented at the introduction of the iTunes store (Yes that feature exists that long).

Frankly I don't feel sorry for parents who could not bother to protect their children from overspending by using simple limiters like prepaid accounts. It's like soft-padding your house when you have a toddler. But for some reason when it comes to technology parents are not supposed to bother and a law has to be done do cover the parents lazyness.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439709)

Can't speak for nowadays because I don't use iTunes any more, but I remember that going back when I registered it was not possible to create an account without a credit card or an equivalent debit service. This was one of the European iTunes stores.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Cwix (1671282) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439787)

It required one for me to sign up, but that was back at the first gen touch. I cannot speak to anything more recently.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Zumbs (1241138) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439813)

So, the solution is to use a credit card to create the account and then block the card? Sigh.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43440129)

No, the solution is another provider who don't force a credit card. Such as android - no card needed!

Or you can go to the apple store and try to buy an iphone/ipad with cash. Claim that you don't have a credit card, ask them to set up the device for you. Maybe they can? If they tell you to get a card "no risk because you don't have to use it, tell the clerk to ready the device using his own card. No risk because there will be no use, right?

Use android - no credit needed (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43440119)

I use android. I did not connect any credit card to the google account, so there is no bill to rack up - other than normal phone bills. Of course that means I can't purchase apps either, but there are enough free apps for me. For music, I buy the CD and rip it myself to ogg. Better than MP3, and the CD is a nice backup if the phone is lost an/or I switch providers.

The in-game purchase model is wrong. You should have to move a fixed amount of money into the game first, before being able to spend. That way, no surprises. And the rich can still spend freely, purchasing their way through some boring game. But they don't want that, they'll loose "sales" to the careless . . .

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440625)

Can't speak for nowadays because I don't use iTunes any more, but I remember that going back when I registered it was not possible to create an account without a credit card or an equivalent debit service. This was one of the European iTunes stores.

You could _always_ open with a credit card, and then immediately remove the credit card from the account. You could also open an account without a credit card if you knew how: You just had to click "Buy" on a free item, and then you could open an account with no credit card or even a gift card at all.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

mikael (484) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440821)

You can make immediate purchases through Google Android - for some 3D shooting games, the basic clothing like a Hawaii T-shirt, beach sunglasses and flip-flops is free, but the camouflage gear, armor, and infinite rounds costs real money.

there should be a no pin mode for free stuff / upd (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440513)

vthere should be a no pin mode for free stuff / updates.

Back when I had WOW cable they made to you go though all the buy screens for the free VOD stuff that had a price of $0.00. Directv does not use the do you want to buy X movie for X price on the free VOD stuff.

I can see a system where some get's used to clicking though buy screens with a price of $0 getting tipped up by a one the costs more then $0.

Why do you need the password for the free stuff?

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (-1, Flamebait)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439441)

This is myopic, and I bet you are not a parent. In fact I bet you're probably still a kid, with that attitude.

Everyone who disagrees with me is a kid and/or doesn't have kids! Take that!

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (2)

jewens (993139) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439539)

As much as I despise the practice of these predatory in-app systems, I have to chime in that iTunes does not require a credit card at all. You can create an account with just a $10 gift card. Apple has never had and will never get my creditcard information.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440077)

re: iTunes does not require a credit card at all. You can create an account with just a $10 gift card.
.
Good point. My cousins are miffed at me because I pointed out to their parents that iTunes and the iPod also do not require you to pay for and download content which you already own digitally. It's possible to put a music CD into an Apple computer and have iTunes rip the CD into the appropriate FLAC/AAC/MP4 format needed for iTunes and the iPod.
:>) Oopsie! My cousins had been getting bonus money in order to be able to download music and populate their iPods. Once my aunt realized they could fill the iPod-touches (plural =?= iPods-touch ?) with the mongo-huge collection of CDs which they already owned, that faucet of bonus money turned off. I am in the doghouse.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

jrumney (197329) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440399)

You can create an account with just a $10 gift card.

No, I can't. People in the US, UK and a handful of other countries can, but for many, including in Apple's biggest market [appleinsider.com], it is not an option.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (2, Informative)

BasilBrush (643681) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439557)

Nowadays, every device has a built in app-store or similar functionality and a credit card is required to even make the device function (why does Apple require a credit card to download free apps or update apps that you've already paid for?!).

That's simply not true.
http://s.iosfans.com/?u=http://cdn.macorg.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/free-apple-account-002.png [iosfans.com]
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2534 [apple.com]

Plus, if you do have a credit card set up, then purchases require the password to be entered. You didn't give a password connected to your credit card to your kid did you?

On top of that, there are parental controls (under a different password) on the iOS devices, including one that turns off in-app purchase,

Further more, gift cards are available if you want to allocate a set amount for a child to spend.

So exactly how difficult is it for a responsible parent to stop their child spending? Actually it's the opposite way around... the parent has to take steps to enable the kid to make purchases.

For sure though there are a lot of parents that don't have the intelligence to not give a child a credit-card enabled phone. And low intelligence is not their fault. And I have no problem at all with governments clipping the wings of any companies peddling exploitative apps or premium phone lines.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439719)

At least until relatively recently Apple required the password to be entered even for free downloads and updates of existing apps.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Culture20 (968837) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439841)

And the password would be cached for 15minutes or so, allowing kids to buy in app purchases after asking the parent to update/install software until the cache timed out. Just one minute can be enough time for some very expensive downloads.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

xclr8r (658786) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440301)

There's a setting for that. 15, 10, 5 and prompt every time. This isn't too far away from the content rating settings.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440317)

iOS Restrictions (parental controls) allows you to choose to have that 15 minutes, or require a password for every download.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440329)

It still does.

Who's device is it? If it's the kids, then they have their own account, with whatever financial arrangements you choose.

If it's your device, then you wouldn't want the kid adding and updating apps without permission.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439847)

The problem is that the same password is used for everything. After the kid asks you to enter it the 20th time to enable some free feature or change some setting the parent just hands it over.

They need to implement a separate password for purchases.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440271)

The problem is that the same password is used for everything.

No it's not. The Apple ID is on thing, it's used for downloading.

Parental controls is a pin number.

And the passcode to access the device in the first place is a different one again.

If you're saying there should be a different password for free and non-free app downloads, that's straying into needlessly complicated territory. Not Apple's style.

We're talking about YOUR iOS device here and YOUR account. You should take an interest in what apps the kid is downloading, even if they are free.

If it's the kids own iOS device, he gets his own Apple ID, without unlimited credit card attached.

Either way, he doesn't get the parental controls PIN.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439609)

It is still the parents problem for depending on others too much.

Trust Nobody. Everyone is a rapist pedo terrorist human trafficker. Even companies.
Trust people as much as you trust that hobo on the street with your childrens safety.

I am obviously exaggerating, but you get what I mean.
Putting too much trust in anything else is only going to bite you in the ass later on, be it a phone company or even banks.
These groups live off your failings. Literally.

It was the fault of the parent who gave the child access to the password for their device, which is equally against every single terms of service agreement in existence, pretty much.
There is no child fault here besides no experience with consequence to understand that this money was real.
It is like a parent giving a child grand theft auto and then complaining their child was violent because of it. (which itself is completely retarded unless the child was already borderline psychotic anyway, media only influences those with broken brains in the first place when they are at those ages)

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

acid_andy (534219) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439661)

This is myopic, and I bet you are not a parent. In fact I bet you're probably still a kid, with that attitude.

The clue is in his name, "PolygamousRanchKid"

But yeah giving your kids access to unlimited credit is insane. It's partly a matter of discipline as if they weren't doing that they might be phoning premium rate phone lines for similar gimmicks although I guess they'd have to be on the line for hours to run up these sorts of sums.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

citizenr (871508) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439743)

Buying a kid a toy used to be a safe bet, the purchase of the item was the sum total of the toy's price.

When? In the 1950s? Almost every toy sold in last 50 years was designed to make the kid whine for the rest of the series. GI Joe, Lego, Pokemon, Barbie, Matchbox, etc.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439819)

I never did get the TMNT Krang Technodrome. I was quite happy with my turtle blimp when those around me had enough lung capacity to blow it up.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43440311)

I think its you that needs to grow up. The rest of use are sick of the "we need protection/new laws" attitude of parents to lazy to parent saying that anyone else doesn't understand, including other parents not as lazy. Live with the consequences of your actions and teach you children the consequences of theirs, it's YOUR job.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43440421)

I bet you're against the free market too?

Kids are there to be sold to. Period. The younger they learn this, the better for the economy.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440831)

why does Apple require a credit card to download free apps or update apps that you've already paid for?

They don't. They certainly don't make it easy to proceed without a credit card but you _can_ set up an iTunes account and download and update free apps without a credit card. My apologies for not having a step-by-step available (it's been a while since I had to set up a CC-free account) but you can find the details with a little google-fu. But, it is possible.

Apple should make it _easier_, but it is possible.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439339)

I can't believe that more parents don't set up a limited balance bank card so that their kids can learn about budgeting etc. Just load a small amount of money per week onto the card and let them use that to pay for in-app purchases. When it runs out of money, the kids have to wait until next week and maybe learn a bit about delayed gratification.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (2)

Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439369)

I can't believe that more parents don't set up a limited balance bank card so that their kids can learn about budgeting etc.

Such accounts are very, very rare. Even the most basic debit card account at my local bank has an implicit overdraft 'just in case' I 'overspend'.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439643)

Well, in my country you can set up accounts for your kids, and no bank in their sane mind would lend a minor any money (that also means no overdraft) without a written consent by the parent. Because kids are by default not sui juris (and that even stretches in this case up to the 18th birthday) which means that you can't ever collect money you lend them. They can just flip you off and turn away, and there's exactly zero you could do.

Of course, if the parent agrees to become liable for their overdraft, it's fair game. But it is trivially easy to set up an account for your kid. Credit cards aren't that easy, but banks now offer "kids credit cards" around here since they caught on that kids need CCs for games. Basically it's a CC that only lets you spend what's on your account, and rejects whenever an amount would take it over the limit. Think of it as an almost maxed out CC.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Belial6 (794905) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440463)

My kid has had a checking account with a Visa card attached since he was 5. You can definitely get them. Of course, the parents suggestion of "When it runs out of money, the kids have to wait until next week and maybe learn a bit about delayed gratification." means that he has already failed. My kid has never run out of money in his account because we taught him that spending every last penny is a dumb, self destructive thing to do. We openly discuss our finances with him and always have. He is fully aware that we pay our credit cards down to 0 every month and why we do it. He is fully aware of how expensive it is to max out your credit cards every month.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439469)

I live in the UK, and I cant believe that the phone companies are permitted to REFUSE to set a credit limit.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439505)

It's not the phone companies - it's the banks/credit card companies. With phone companies, it's trivial to buy a Pay As You Go mobile phone - I use one for my personal (non-work) phone as it works out a lot cheaper for me.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440167)

In the UK, both O2 and T-Mobile refuse to set credit limits on contract phones. 3 lets you set a credit limit. (Which is why I am on 3). My contract (£30 a month inc SGS3) gives me unlimited internet (Inc tethering), a zillion text messages a month (I use about 3) and 5000 mins to other 3 users (my family - I use about 2500) and 2000 minutes to other networks (I use about 1800). That is WAY more than you get for the same money on PAYG.

I am a happy bunny, but have had major agro from O2 and T-Mobile (who called in debt collectors for a BB I never had)

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439445)

So if you're not a very good parent and neglect them and they get kidnapped, raped and killed that's totally the parent's fault. There's absolutely nobody else we could blame in this situation. These companies aren't there to play nice, they're there to rip you off for hundreds and thousands of dollars when you slip up and leave your kid with access to your credit card. They're like a hawk just waiting for the mother to look away so they can swoop in for the kill and you want to defend them. Sure, parents could do better but that is no reason to protect predatory companies looking to exploit innocent children and stick their parents with the bill.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (5, Informative)

radio4fan (304271) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439555)

/shrug

You can look on it as government interference if you want, but in the UK people like the OFT: we look on their work as consumer protection.

The key word is 'Fair'. If a trade practice is 'unfair', the OFT are pretty effective at stopping it. If it really is just a case of your kid spending your money, then no, it's not the government's problem. But how will the OFT know if it's fair if they don't investigate?

I don't have any children, so I've no axe to grind, but I still think it's a good idea that they at least investigate the fairness of in-app purchases.

The OFT is one of the reasons that in the UK they have a variety of mobile phone providers with coverage everywhere, that they can move between with no penalty, and who will unlock our phones on demand. I don't think this is true of the US.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

radio4fan (304271) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439569)

Oops.

My national identity confusion (they/our) is because I'm British, but haven't lived in Britain since 2007.

Great OFT, but dreadful weather.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (4, Insightful)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439561)

This isn't about kids spending money. It's about deceitful advertisements that trick people in buying stuff.
The average person might see through these tricks. But a huge population is dumber than the average person.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (2)

rsmith-mac (639075) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439631)

This isn't about kids spending money. It's about deceitful advertisements that trick people in buying stuff.

Bingo. Since the late 80s firms have routinely been slapped down for predatory practices when it comes to kids. TV is the most obvious example - toy commercials have been forcibly unbundled from their parent programs and standards have been imposed to prevent the Chocobot Hour [simpsonswiki.net] problem - but regulations have been put in place elsewhere for similar reasons. The US already has COPPA [wikipedia.org] for dealing with the Internet, which prevents firms from collecting information on children under 13, for largely the same reasons.

Anyhow, not to go on an anti-corporate rant here, but this isn't anything new. Kids are stupid/naive and easily influenced, and less scrupulous businesses have long attempted to do an end-run around parents by targeting kids directly, which is why these regulations are in place. Parents should absolutely keep a close eye on what their kids are doing and nothing the government can do will replace that, but parents are ultimately competing against firms employing graduate level psychological methods. Kids are all but helpless here, so it's not a fair fight to say the least.

Parents should not have to fight against firms blatantly predating on their kids, which is what some of these kid-focused games are trying to do.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439943)

Just don't buy them the shit, then. Oh... you don't want to hear whining or some other such nonsense? Your problem; deal with it. Take your, "Advertising is brainwashing" nonsense elsewhere (I may have just brainwashed you by expressing my opinion).

It's fraud plain and simple... (1)

jopsen (885607) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439595)

. . . should not be the government's problem.

If your business plan relies on kids who don't understanding that they're being ripped off. Then that's some degree of fraud or illegal marketing.

It seems that there's this mindset, that if you have long legal agreement, it okay to sell people things they regret buying.
Newsflash: it's not okay. If you do a transaction well aware that the other party is doing a bad deal and that other party doesn't know or understand it, it called fraud.


Fraud is hard to prove, but that doesn't make it legal!!!

Re:It's fraud plain and simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439693)

That isn't fraud. That's called "buyer beware".

I think you might want to look up the definition of fraud. it involves purposely lying about your product for profit. If the company is fairly representing what their product is and does, and it's simply a bad value for the money, that is not fraud.

if you buy something you regret, but it is exactly what it was advertised to be, that is not fraud. that is you being stupid.

We should not be protecting people from the consequences of being stupid. Not at all. if we do, there will never be any incentive for them not to be stupid.

Re:It's fraud plain and simple... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439867)

I think you might want to look up the definition of fraud. it involves purposely lying about your product for profit.

Saying it's free when it isn't is telling the truth?

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

theVarangian (1948970) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439699)

Your kid, spending your money . . . . . . should not be the government's problem.

Ah, parents these days . . . and their children . . . most of the time they're somebody else's problem.

Why should predatory business practices be allowed behavior by default and the burden of guarding against them be placed on the consumer? Should real-estate fraud be allowed and should the onus of guarding against it be placed on the consumer? It's kind of convenient to have a police force who sees to it that the occurrence of real-estate fraud is minimized, even hard core free market fanatics admit that much. So if we can do something to crack down on people who have turned exploiting the economic naivete of children into a business model then we should do it. Suckering kids and teens into buying toys and other junk is one thing but some of these in-app game purchases are bordering on downright fraud.

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439777)

In App purchases are the devils work.

Amazon (UK probably all of them) is starting to be guilty of something similar. Amazon MP3 won't let you see what you are doing until the purchase goes through.

So is Google (Need a card to enable Google Music) some people may think it cannot be removed straight away afterwards.

I don't trust Google with my card details because if something goes wrong they won't care one bit.

I trust Amazon with it but I leave my one click card set to a test card so I can only buy from them if I manually change it.

If the companies wanted to help they would allow these things to be disabled in such a way that they cannot be re-enabled from the device under any circumstances.

Once the app has been put through once you can do what you like without the card being on.

When I was a kid we had stuff like football cards and stickers that were like 20p a packet.

Now there is stuff like moshi monsters and skylander giants that cost a fortune.

Some of the freemium games are no better than fake anti virus scams in my eyes.

If I see anyone I know using one I make sure to see if I can an unlimited gold or whatever apk for them.
(If I cannot and they are reasonably technically competant I tell them about Freedom 0.8.3 apk)

Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (1)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440663)

So that makes it OK to trick kids into buying stuff with their parents' money their parents can't afford? WTFIWWY?
We call them children for a reason. Make it so parents can't afford to leave them alone with a computer for 5 minutes and parents won't let them have access to computers or game systems or phones at all. I don't know if that's a good thing or not but it's not how I would want to run my household.

Yes (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439297)

You mean like a game that lets you make steady progress for a few hours, then suddenly ups the difficulty level to a point where the only way to continue is to pay for something? Few adults can resist, how many kids would be able to?

Re:Yes (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439577)

Few adults can resist? The vast majority of people who play these games (Farmville, Angry Birds etc.) never buy any content. The developers are playing the numbers game, it's OK if only a tiny percentage pay if you have more than a million of people playing.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439593)

It seems that all games on the apple platform are built this way now.
I used to buy a game or two a month but now it might be one or two pr year because I hate in-app purchases and will not buy such apps.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439751)

Why wouldn't they be built this way? Apple users have proven they have more money than sense... they spent hundreds on a PHONE... Many of them multiple times.

Crank the scum level upto 11. You'll make money. It's a good safe bet.

It's just smart business. Might be illegal, wrong and immoral... but since when has businesses cared about that?

Mod me flamebait all you want apple drones. You know deep down i'm correct.
You guys make ideal sales targets. Into fads? Check. Money to burn? Check. Not too much sense common or otherwise? Check...
Thats a wet dream for most salespeople with questionable products.

Re:Yes (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439759)

I agree, but on the other hand, it allows you to try out the game before spending money on it. The only in-app purchases I buy are add-ons for games that I play and enjoy - board games like Small World, Ticket to Ride etc.

Mind you, those are "one-off" purchases - once you've paid for Small World "Cursed" expansion, you've got it forever (or until Small World 2 comes out - I've pledged for the Kickstarter project).

Re:Yes (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440817)

Forget that - what about games like Injustice: Gods Among Us which makes it IMPOSSIBLE to continue playing unless you use a consumable to refresh your energy pool (or to stop playing entirely for an hour or more)? And, when I say impossible to continue, I'm not exaggerating - you cannot fight if your characters' energy level is too low and that happens _VERY_ fast (you can find yourself unable to play in ten or fifteen minutes, even with "smart" energy management). It's an awesome game that I enjoy a great deal (*), so I'm sorry I'm slagging on it right now but I find the fight energy mechanic unforgivable - it outright makes it impossible to play the game after a very short period of time.

*There is a work around (I won't say hack or cheat - it's more of a trick). If not for that trick, I wouldn't still be playing the game - I'd have deleted it from my iPad. The trick simply involves changing your device's time setting to make the game think time has passed when it has, in fact, not.

Let's blame everyone else (0)

Superdarion (1286310) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439305)

These parents blaming the games for this is like people blaming mcdonnalds for their kids' obesity... Whatever happened to parents actually parenting?

Re:Let's blame everyone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439377)

Funny you bring up McDonalds, a company that uses psychological conditioning just short of mind control to get kids addicted.
But, sure, why not, let's run with it. The equivalent would having to register your child and your creditcard to McDonalds, and then let the kid order from McDonalds whenever he's hungry. Worse yet, the school is the one that made you sign up for this service.

School= necessary service, which cellphones have pretty much become.

Re:Let's blame everyone else (3, Insightful)

symes (835608) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439415)

I'd hazard a guess there are a fair few parents out there that don't quite understand apps, smart phones and the like. But in the case of UK law, I'd also imagine that there are instances where apps are misleading people to think play is free, but it isn't. If this is the case then they could be falling foul if UK law - a bit like calling something a beef burger when it is actually 75% Winnie-the-Pooh.

Re:Let's blame everyone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439581)

I have three kids 15, 13, 11 so perhaps i can add some value here.

Kids are hammered every day for things they don't need, probably because Its much easier to sell to kids then adults. The corps all know this, and its the parents who end up paying.

While i am pretty strict, and OK technology wise i see the problems first hand. Many of my kids friends have IPhones and ipads. These devices dont have a concept of "user profile". If its the parents ipad and they want to have an account registered so they can buy music its not easy how do they let their kids use it when they are bored and complaining?

As i said, i'm strict so my kids have no ipad's etc so i don't have this issue. Flip side (and flame me if you want) if i end up getting them something, it will be an android based device as i can get it fully functional without adding any sort of Credit card or pre-pay card (yes, i know google gets profile data).

People blame the parents pretty fast, and i think in some cases there is an element of truth to bad parenting. On the other hand why is it so easy to buy "items" on these fremium games with NO means to stop it? In many cases the games are targeted directly to kids, rated "PG" and yet with the click of a button you can buy stuff. They never use real money, its always money for an item, and you spend the item in the game. Adding a level of abstraction so its not as clear you are spending real money (smuf berries comes to mind)

Its hard to believe that is not predatory in some way.

Re:Let's blame everyone else (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439789)

As far as I know, in-app purchases require you to put in your password. Parents really should know better than to trust their kids with full access to unlimited credit. That said, I do believe that the companies are acting in a predatory fashion.

However, kids are marketed to in a pretty ruthless fashion, so I think teaching kids about how to budget money and not impulse buy all the time is very useful. Get them a pre-paid card and give them £5 a week to spend - they learn something and get to play the games without being able to rack up huge bills.

Re:Let's blame everyone else (1)

itsdapead (734413) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440481)

As far as I know, in-app purchases require you to put in your password.

....and as has been repeatedly pointed out there have often been loopholes in this, such as systems that cache the password for 15 minutes, or systems that 'cry wolf' by asking for passwords for (e.g.) free apps and updates, so parents get complacent. Plus, your average kid may be smart enough to shoulder-surf when you enter your password, but still dumb enough to be fooled into spending money without realising.

Re:Let's blame everyone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439695)

That is a pertinant comparison. UK regulation already puts limits on McDonalds ability to advertise to childrens. Advertising for fast food is not allowed on childrens TV channels, nor within programmes which are mostly watched by children on other channels. It recognises the fact that children are particularly susceptible to advertising and that parents don't actually appreciate having to resist the things kids "have to have".

No conservation of responsibility (1)

itsdapead (734413) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440491)

You do know that its possible for both parents and businesses to share responsibility for things like this?

You seem eager to heap responsibility and blame on parents, but hey, businesses should be able to pursue the mighty buck wherever it leads, without consequences. Sounds fair.

Parents should watch what their kids are doing, and not give in to pestering - but that doesn't make it right for supposedly reputable businesses to lurk in the bushes poised to spring out and take advantage as soon as a parent makes a mistake.

A little late for that... (4, Interesting)

blahplusplus (757119) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439323)

... the gaming industry has turned into a crime syndicate over the last 6-7 years. It's been discusting with the rise of F2P and charging for virtual items in MMO's with both WoW and diablo 3 being among the biggest offenders.

Reality is we need to crack down on software you can never own and can be "turned off" whenever a company says so. So many older apps/games functionality is fubar because of current anti-customer industry practices. The bad thing is kids and stupid adults feed these companies money year after year.

Re:A little late for that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439655)

Your spelling discusts me.

Simple Solution (1)

cffrost (885375) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439333)

Give kids their own debit cards so they can spend their allowance/paychecks online without risking their family's budget. No need nanny-state crackdowns here.

Re:Simple Solution (2)

jewens (993139) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439565)

Part of the difficulty with teaching children how to manage money is the abstraction of value, worth and effort. Adding a additional layer of plastic over the problem will only make it worse. Giving an allowance of real money that they can visually watch diminish as they spend it is a better way for them to learn.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440137)

Ironically, it could be argued that many of these games do, actually, teach the concept of working to save things so you can buy them... until the kid "cheats" by actually spending their parent's money on "Gold coins" or "Lifestyle Points" or whatever it is that the abstracted difficult-to-raise currency is.

Education for parents needed - set a PIN! (2)

ncw (59013) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439335)

My 5 year old son taught me a very important lesson about having a PIN on your payment methods...

Luckily it only cost me £25 ($40).

Not being a great reader my son just clicks OK to all the boxes that pop up, so there is great opportunity for game manufacturers to dupe unsuspecting parents into spending lots of their cash.

It is a one time only scam though which I really should have thought through but I, along with thousands of other hapless parents, have inadvertently contributed to Zepto Labs' coffers.

Education for parents is the solution IMHO. I got mine the hard way ;-)

Re:Education for parents needed - set a PIN! (4, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439393)

"Not being a great reader my son just clicks OK ..."

Isn't that the root of all the problems? Not only payments but also viruses, trojans and other crap.

Re:Education for parents needed - set a PIN! (1)

Barsteward (969998) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439563)

"Not being a great reader my son just clicks OK ..."

all fcuking users do this. Work on an IT helpdesk for a while and try asking a user who calls for help what error message was displayed. "I don't know. I just pressed ok to continue"

Re:Education for parents needed - set a PIN! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43440159)

Work on an IT helpdesk for a while and try asking a user who calls for help what error message was displayed. "I don't know. I just pressed ok to continue"

Which is why well designed software does not use popups. And especially not a sequence of them. "Install wizards" are notorious for this.

Re:Education for parents needed - set a PIN! (1)

jopsen (885607) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439621)

... It is a one time only scam...

A scam is essentially criminal enterprise. Just because kids (or parents) don't understand what is going doesn't make it okay to take advantage of them.

Education for parents is the solution IMHO. I got mine the hard way ;-)

Education is great at protection people from scams, but it won't even reach a majority of the users.
These scams should be prosecuted, they create a toxic business environment for everybody who tries build a legitimate business.

These parents were doing it wring (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439357)

Parents should be monitoring their children 24 hours a day and seven days a week. If they can't do that, then they shouldn't be parents. It's well known adults don't need to sleep and that they have the power of ubiquity.

Re:These parents were doing it wring (1)

pipatron (966506) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439479)

I have a feeling that the world would be a nicer place if only those who could stay awake for 24 hours a day, seven days a week would have children.

Maybe it's just me being a misanthrope again...

It's pretty simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439405)

Children are not capable of entering into a legal contract, so they can't buy anything without parental consent. Simply contest/reverse any credit card charges racked up by these apps. Credit card companies really don't like to put up with that shit, so if a merchant keeps getting hit by this due to predatory marketing, they'll eventually be cut off.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439477)

Credit cards have limts. (in the UK) Phone contracts have no limit, and the full force of the law is available to the phone copanies to demand payment of any amount they choose, without regard to sanity, morality or any other constraint.

There was a problem with ringtones a few years back: kids thought they were buying one ringtone for $2, they were actually agreeing to one a day for ever. The phone regulator was asked on national radio what he was doing about it, he said "Nothing. These people are criminals, and when we come after them, they run away!" (Notwithstanding the fact that the criminals have to wait 90 days before they get the money from established phone companies - who take 30% as a transaction fee).

There IS a problem: and it is primarily the fact that we cannot request a credit limit.

welcome to first-ratedress.com (-1, Offtopic)

first-ratedress.com (2894913) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439423)

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OMG! (0)

roman_mir (125474) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439431)

How about the governments stay out of private business and let the people make their own decisions whether to let their kids play games and make in game purchases and better explains how is it that the governments force aggressive purchases of bank debt by tax payers?

Multiuser tablets (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439433)

Isn't part of the problem that most popular tablets/phones are single user only? Android only recently added this feature in 4.2 and iOS is (AFAIK) single user only.

Having a different login for the kids would solve the problem.

Re:Multiuser tablets (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439691)

Something like kids corner on windows phone seems to work quite well.

Turning it off is no option? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439439)

There's a lot of nasty software out there that is specifically targeted at kids and charges huge amounts for ingame items. My kids are at a young age and they simply do not understand the difference between real cash and virtual ingame cash, to them it's all the same. So if an app says 'do you want to buy this for 99,99 euros', they just tap 'yes'.
What I don't understand is why a parent would give an iPad/Nexus/whatever with a fully accessible master account to a child. On my iPad I just disabled in-app purchases and set password to 'every time' instead of 'once every 15 minutes'. And no app buying or removing either.

Re:Turning it off is no option? (-1, Flamebait)

citizenr (871508) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439755)

There's a lot of nasty software out there that is specifically targeted at kids and charges huge amounts for ingame items. My kids are at a young age and they simply do not understand the difference between real cash and virtual ingame cash, to them it's all the same. So if an app says 'do you want to buy this for 99,99 euros', they just tap 'yes'.

Teach it to your kids then you retard.

WTF is billing enabled in the first place? (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439457)

What is the billing mechanism, anyways? Is it the wireless carrier? I'm an adult, and I wouldn't want that billing "feature" enabled on my phone, just in case I fat-fingered the wrong key.

Re:WTF is billing enabled in the first place? (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440135)

On Apple iOS products, the billing mechanism is whatever you have set up with your iTunes account. It could be a credit card number; it could also be "cash value" added to an iTunes account by using "gift cards" purchased at local brick-and-mortar stores or received as, of course, gifts.
:>)
On Android products, the billing would be through Google Play or through the info passed on by google play to the company or individual who is offering the "app" for purchase.

Re:WTF is billing enabled in the first place? (1)

DogDude (805747) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440173)

Do you need to have an iTunes account to use your iGadgets?

Re:WTF is billing enabled in the first place? (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440595)

Do you need to have an iTunes account to use your iGadgets?

You can use any iOS device without having any account. You need an iTunes account to buy anything or to get free downloads. However, that account doesn't need any credit card or debit card attached to it, and in that case if there is no money in the account, you just can't buy anything. You can pay in money via giftcards (which is highly recommended because you usually find giftcards sold at less than face value), in which case you can't spend more than the money in your account.

You still need a password to do anything. And if your kids manage to buy stuff (they need your password for that), you make a phone call to Apple support and they will sort it out. Unless you let your kid spend tons of money over three months, in which case you have a problem.

Let's not blame the parents (3, Insightful)

Sesostris III (730910) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439463)

I don't have kids, and I don't have an iPad either. However I do have friends who are, to be blunt, technically naive. It might surprise the Slashdot crowd, but one friend actually went on a work course where they were taught such things as the difference between files and folders! (To be fair the same friend is trying to get more computer literate - she has bought herself "Windows for Dummies" and is studiously working through it. I think she's actually thought of as something of a geek at where she works; she's a qualified midwife and works in a hospital unit for premature babies, so she's not in anyway 'stupid', just not computer literate).

Anyway, the point is that many would not understand the technology or technological trends in a way that we would on Slashdot. To many a game is a game, whether physical (a board game or card game or some such) or virtual (Solitaire anyone?) Games in the past do not allow you to 'buy extras' mid game, so this behaviour is unexpected. From past experience allowing your child (or mother) to play a game on a computer or iPad would be considered safe - the possibility of actual money being spent would not be considered and therefore not dealt with. To be honest, not being an iPad owner nor a computer game player, I would not be aware of this 'feature' in games - after all I've never seen it in Solitaire!

So let's not blame the parents. Let's instead blame those taking advantage of the possibilities of new technology and of the naivete of actual users. It is this that's behind the investigated by the OFT.

Re:Let's not blame the parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43440361)

Nope, just the parents. This whole badge of "I'm computer illiterate" worn with pride when in UK schools there have been computer lessons and computer labs for the last 20 years doesn't wash. But expect new laws any time now.

Re:Let's not blame the parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43440507)

Hogwash! The free market forces will sort everything out.
Or are you against the economy?

The whole iFoo thing is an in-app purchase scheme. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43439473)

Subject says it all, really.

I'll go against my usual sentiments (2)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439675)

Usually, I'm the first to cry "no way" if government thinks it needs to butt in with the thinkofthechildren card. But they do have a point here. Game companies are tying to use the naivety and gullibility of kids to squeeze money out of them. And short of 24/7 monitoring, there is little parents can do. More and more games require you to enter a CC number "just in case", so you can play at all. And let's be honest, you can tell your kids 10 times that they must not spend real money, often it's easy to overlook whether you're spending in game or real money on your purchase. It's deliberately done so it's hard for the user to notice, and twice so for kids who don't really have a working concept of the value of money. For a 5 year old, 1, 10 and 100 bucks are just numbers, they don't really know how much is "much" and what is still "little". Not to mention that many little things add up, and kids have even less a concept for that.

What I would still prefer to a regulation would be some kind of "child friendly environment" ad sticker that gets promoted and that gets handed to games that don't try to rip off kids, as a guideline for parents which games are suitable for their children. Such games would, e.g. offer online purchases only for vouchers instead of CCs for kids under 14, would allow parents a separate login to monitor their kids' spending habits, would constantly show how much money has been spent this month already and would allow parents to set limits to how much their kids may spend per week or month. I could well see something like a "seal of approval" by some child protection group that such games could use to advertise their games, what government should do is either form such a group or endorse a reputable one and advertise that "seal" as a way for parents to discriminate between good and bad games.

From the urso-sylvanian scatology dept. (1)

itsdapead (734413) | 1 year,5 days | (#43439677)

The UK Government will be examining whether free to download apps are putting unfair pressure on kids to pay up for additional content within the game through in-app purchases.

Let's help them with that so they can get on with the important job of searching the Pope's quarters for suspicious crucifixes and rosaries...

0. Kids are generally easier to con and less responsible than adults. That's why we don't let them drive, drink, vote or have credit cards.

1. Yes - they're disingenuously called "free-to-play" games and every app store is heaving with them. Technically you can enjoy the game without paying, but they're specifically designed to tempt you to open your wallet. Particularly insidious are the ones with both an imaginary in-game economy and the option of spending real money, where the two concepts can easily get blurred enough to fool a kid. A parent wouldn't necessarily pot this if they 'checked out' the game for a few minutes.

2. Evidence - the industry wouldn't be doing this if they weren't making more money from in-app purchases than by charging a fair, one-off price for the game.

3. Solution - the Govenment doesn't want to get any further into video game censorship than it already is, but we already have age-rating systems. Any game with in-app purchases should be marked as "Funded by in-app purchases and not suitable for under 16s" and make use of whatever parental controls exist on the platform. Games could be exempted if they could demonstrate that they had adequate mechanisms to allow parents to cap spending, and had payments disabled by default. (Giving a kid a limited budget to manage is not a bad thing, but they need training wheels!)

4. Next steps - don't bother: by the time you finish grinding out your report, customer pressure will have forced all the reputable app stores and age-rating schemes to fix this: Apple have already improved labelling of games with in-app purchases.

5. Conclusion - even the solutions in (3) and (4) won't solve this problem - there's too much money in it - but they might help responsible people avoid this trap. Sadly, we'll still see a lot of potentially good gameplay wrecked by greed for in-app purchases.

Now, let's have a quick look for stains in Mr Holmes' underpants.

$100 to $500 for Simpsons: Tapped Out (3, Insightful)

thepacketmaster (574632) | 1 year,5 days | (#43440213)

I agree that some of these games could be excessive if you purchased all the in-game items. I calculated that purchasing each "premium" item at least once could cost between $100 and $500 for Simpsons: Tapped Out. This is very similar to gambling. You can have sensible people that view it as some entertainment and will stop after a limit, or you have the people that don't set limits and lose a lot. With that comparison, kids are protected from gambling so there should be something in place for software companies to protect children. Software companies do need to make money of course, and this method is important because it allows the consumer to try a game before buying/paying for it. It also allows people that don't want to grind to be able to experience the end-game content. I do object to games like Simpsons: Tapped Out that make it next to impossible to ever get premium items without paying, but that's their choice. On the flip side, some responsible parenting would be good too. Teach children the value of money and of working for a reward (in-game or otherwise). Don't give your children access to phones or software that are attached to credit cards or billing accounts. Restrict them to game/gift cards for purchasing content. (perhaps that could be the new currency for allowances?)

Report (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#43440327)

I already have the report... but when you try to skip straight to the conclusion it says you need to purchase the SuperJump power for $0.99.
 

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