January 17, 2014
The Federal Trade Commission announced on Wednesday that Apple has agreed to better enforce parental approval of purchases from the company’s App Store. Apple will also refund at least $32.5 million to parents whose children made purchases without their consent. Apple settled a related class-action lawsuit last year, but the FTC said that the problem continued after the settlement, so Apple has agreed to further modify its practices.
At one time, customers who logged in with their password did not have to re-enter the password for the following 15 minutes. This allowed children to easily purchase apps without their parents’ knowledge.
“With a software update to its mobile devices in 2011, Apple began requiring users to re-enter passwords when trying to make a purchase within an app, even if the app was opened within 15 minutes of buying an app on iTunes,” reports The New York Times. “Once the password is re-entered, though, users have another 15 minutes to buy in-app items before they’re forced to enter their password again. There are also controls in iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system, that give parents more finely tuned controls over in-app purchases and the ability to shut them off.”
The FTC said that Apple needs to be more clear when other purchases can be made within the 15 minute time frame. The Commission also said that consumers need to have the option of whether the device asks for the password for every purchase, or to allow purchases without a password re-entered in 15 minutes.
According to Apple’s chief exec, Tim Cook, the agreement with the FTC did “not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.”
The App Store has been extremely successful for Apple; customers spent $10 billion last year in the App Store alone.