In a recent report, Apple is said to be rushing to alter how in-app purchases (IAPs) can be made in advance of March 31 – a deadline imposed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The news reached us from ZDNet, which explains that according to sources familiar with Apple's work, the Cupertino, Calif. company is “scrambling” to make changes to its App Store before the end of the month. This is because of a 2013 settlement with the FTC, which requires Apple to take measures in order to prevent iOS device users – and particularly children – from running up a bill for IAPs without a parent's consent.
This complaint dates back years, and centers around the fact that even if a password is required for IAPs, subsequent purchases can be made on an iOS device without requiring a password to be re-entered for up to 15 minutes after.
Apple's 15-minute no-password window is particularly troublesome for families that share a single iTunes account. When a parent makes a legitimate purchase on their iPhone, for example, while their child is playing a game on an iPad, the child is able to buy more credits, levels, or unlocks during the next 15 minutes by simply touching “yes” – without entering a password. The charges are automatically approved and charged to the parent's credit card on file.
The FTC has demanded that Apple alter this aspect of its App Store, and a deadline of March 31 was imposed. ZDNet notes that according to sources inside of Cupertino, Apple is now rushing to implement the changes in advance of this date. Furthermore, it would be even more convenient for the company to correct the issue with iOS 7.1, which is rumored to be launching in time for SXSW on March 11, the source added.
But what exactly is demanded of Apple? The publication highlights two changes required by the FTC:
- Modify its billing practices to ensure that Apple obtains consumers’ express, informed consent prior to billing them for in-app charges
- Consumers must have the option to withdraw their consent at any time
As ZDNet adds, “This probably means the end of the 15-minute no-password window as we know it.”
This might sound like a relatively small change to make, but the report goes on to explain that “it's taking Apple longer than expected to make the required changes” – due, in particular, to the second requirement. “Apple must require a password for all IAPs by default, and perhaps make a no-password window an option via settings,” ZDNet posits.
Changes will likely appear in the desktop iTunes app, too, since a 15-minute no-password timeframe is also in effect here (even if IAPs are reserved for certain iOS and Mac applications).
Time is running out for Apple, and if it's aiming to both fix its IAP problem as of iOS 7.1 and release the software update in time for SXSW, this gives Cupertino less than a week to correct the issue and implement it within the updated mobile OS.
We'll keep you posted with further information as we receive it.