Parenting websites are reporting greater numbers of parents being billed £500 or more after their children have made "in-app purchases" (IAPs) while playing games. The problems begin when children wish to explore new areas of a game or wish to obtain better weapons for their character – they are often able to buy these with a single click.Well, so what? Isn't that up to the user of the game to decide in 'Settings'? And as Bucko points out, that isn't necessarily always a child. Why shouldn't it be 'with one click' if I so decide?
Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums...Oh oh!
...said: "We have heard of cases where parents have been hit with bills for hundreds of pounds as the apps are often linked to their card details through iTunes. Often the bills aren't immediate and it takes days to find out they have been charged."Well, they should take more care then! If you've forgotten that you set up a game to accept single-click purchase of in-app goodies, and you then hand your iPad to your toddler, you're asking for trouble!
But I expect you've got some sad stories to highlight, right?
"I contacted Apple and discovered I wasn't the only naive parent in the world. This is a common occurrence and Apple refused to issue any kind of refund. Needless to say that I have now disabled all in-app purchases on my devices. Lesson learned."Good! That's the end of it, right?
Most devices allow users to restrict access to IAPs or block them completely – it is parents who do not install these measures who are at risk.Responsibility where it needs to lie!
"App developers are not often altruistic," said Spencer Whitman of app protection firm AppCertain. "They often include in-app purchases hidden behind the free price tag. Either they offer a small amount of play, then charge for continued use; offer in-app purchases for more in-game content such as extra areas of play or upgrades; or they constantly interrupt game play to ask for in-app purchases."Boooo! Eeeeeeeeevil corporations!
Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet...Oh, lord! Here we go again...
...said: "It's all too easy for our children to get sucked into games and, before you know it, they've racked up huge costs buying coins, berries and doughnuts. You do need to keep an eye on your child's device settings and to keep your password for purchases private at all costs."Typical, she just expec...
Wait. What? It's up to parents to be responsible? Say it ain't so! That must be a first.
So...just who is whipping up all the fuss?
Adam Levene, chief strategy officer at Grapple Mobile, said: "The simplicity of making instant purchases and the allure to progress the game further at the touch of a button, without necessarily understanding the monetary value, has raised concerns. Developers have a greater responsibility to ensure that an in-app purchase is obvious and feels distinctly different from the standard game play."Developers have a responsibility to build the game to their employer's specifications. No more, no less.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "It's far too easy for children to run up huge bills on phone apps when most default settings allow 'in-app purchases' without asking for a confirmation or password. If your child has run up a huge bill without your knowledge, contact the app store or manufacturer, as you may be eligible for a refund."Like the sad story says, that doesn't always work. And nor should it.
But good grief, it's no wonder we have a personal responsibility problem in this country, isn't it? With so many enablers around, what else could we have?