Occasionally, we hear stories about kids making outlandish in-app purchases in the App Store. Most of these stories paint the picture of an uninformed father or mother, who had no idea what their son or daughter was doing. Inevitably, once the mishap makes news, Apple refunds the family the money and life moves on.
News that a 13-year-old in the U.K. recently ran up a $5,600 bill for in-app purchases, has convinced the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to take a look at the policies behind those options. As such, they have announced that they’ll be running a six month investigation into whether children “are being unfairly pressured or encouraged to pay for additional content.”
As part of the investigation, the OFT will be reaching out to companies that offer free Web or app-based games, as well as to parents, and consumer groups.
According to Cavendish Elithorn, OFT senior director for goods and consumer:
We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs …
… The OFT is not seeking to ban in-game purchases, but the games industry must ensure it is complying with the relevant regulations so that children are protected. We are speaking to the industry and will take enforcement action if necessary.
In-app purchase systems, like the one featured in the App Store, continue to receive heavy criticism. This comes despite a recent court settlement which requires Apple to pay $5 to 23 million App Store users, and a new warning label system implemented last month.
We’ll keep watching this story and let you know what develops. In the meantime, see: The Parents Of A 5-Year-Old Are Off The Hook After Son Spends $2,500 In App Store.
Photo: Apartment Therapy