Court fines Apple for misleading ‘bait apps’

Recently the United States Northern District of California court fined Apple for failing to adequately disclose the risks of in-app purchases for apps marketed as ‘free’ and child friendly.

‘Bait apps’ are gaming applications that are free of charge for the initial download, but require or allow small payments to be made to progress in the game.

Users of the apps are constantly prompted to purchase ‘game money’ to complete certain tasks or to buy items for virtual characters, hints, useful tools etc.

A significant concern is that child players may click to purchase the virtual game money to progress in the game but unknowing parents will have to foot the bill.

Although purchases do require a password, once entered it is valid for 15 minutes. This proved to be enough time for children to spend hundreds of dollars over the course of the games.

The US Apple settlement ruled that any US itunes holder will get a refund for any purchases made without their consent.

Following similar concerns raised in Australia, the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) has launched an inquiry into in-app purchases. The inquiry is exploring the adequacy of information provided to consumers and actions that could be taken to improve the consumer experience with in-app purchases.

CFA member ACCAN publishes advice for consumers on how to avoid in-app purchases by enabling restrictions on a number of software platforms, as well as advice on how to request a refund from Apple.

Instructions on how to disable Apple iOS bait apps from charging your account.

iOS (Apple) – Changing to these settings will disable the in-app purchase function. 

SelectSettings > General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions > 

Enter and confirm a passcode > Scroll down to “In-app Purchases” > Select “Off”

Also, if you’ve updated your iPhone to iOS6 or later, you can enable “Guided Access”. This limits your device to a single app and lets you control which app features are available. Click here for more information.”

ACCAN have also published instructions for other operating systems.