Apple Settles With Parents Whose Kids Racked Up iTunes Debt
February 26, 2013

Kids Vs Parents Vs Apple

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

In the case of Apple v The Parents, the iPad maker has decided to settle by way of $5 iTunes gift cards or more than $30 cash. Though this deal awaits approval from a district court judge in San Francisco, the parents of children who spent hundreds of dollars in the app store may be seeing that money come back to them.

Older versions of Apple´s iOS had a feature which left the door for in-app purchases wide open for a certain period time. This, say parents, was just enough time for so-called “bait apps” to lure their children into spending real world cash to advance in their dream world play fantasies. This class action lawsuit was brought against Apple in spring 2011.

In earlier versions of Apple´s mobile operating system iOS, the iTunes store remained open for 10 minutes after a user entered in their password to make a purchase. This means any subsequent purchase within that ten minute window could be made without a password. Many parents began to complain this window was open just long enough for their children to inflict some serious damage on their bank accounts.

In a typical scenario, a child playing with their parents´ iPad would ask the parent to tap in their password to download a new, free game. Though the game itself might have been free, it would encourage the child to pay for extra points or extra currency, such as “Fish Bucks” or “Smurfberries” from two popular games. The children would buy these items, and since the iTunes window of opportunity had previously been opened, no password was required for additional purchases.

It´s not difficult to find stories of parents who ended up paying upwards of $300 to iTunes, thanks in part to opportunistic game developers. While parents always had the opportunity to block in-app game purchases, Apple began giving users the option to set a time limit on how long this window remained open. As has always been the case, users still have the opportunity to block in-app purchases or make any purchase without an iTunes password.

According to GigaOm, those parents who spent less than $5 on unwanted in-app purchases will be eligible to receive an iTunes gift card. For any amount spent between $5 and $30, Apple will offer an iTunes credit to cover that amount. Parents of children who spent more than $30 will be eligible to receive a refund in cash, providing certain requirements are met, which include filling out an application for a refund.

Every parent who wants to claim some form of reimbursement will be required to attest their child unknowingly spent this money without entering in the iTunes password. Before the court can finally approve the settlement, Apple will need to gather these claims and put together a final estimate of how much they´ll be paying out. When all is said and done, parents likely won´t receive their money until late 2014.