Apple offers compensation for kids' in-app purchases

Image caption,
Mr Meguerian said his daughter made in-app purchases from Treasure Story and other games

Apple has proposed paying compensation to US parents whose children made in-app purchases without their permission.

The iPod-maker had been sued over allegations it had failed to "adequately" publicise that child-targeted games in its App Store included the facility.

A judge will consider the proposal on 1 March.

Apple acknowledged it would need to tell more than 23 million iTunes account holders they might qualify.

Affected users would receive an email offering at least $5 (£3.20) in credit if they confirmed a minor had charged their account without permission, and that they had not already had the fee deleted after making a complaint.

15-minute window

The legal action dates back to April 2011 and allegations made by a California-based man that his youngest daughter had racked up a series of charges without his knowledge.

Garen Meguerian said his nine-year-old's actions had cost him approximately $200 after she bought toxin, gems and other "game currencies" within apps including Zombie Cafe, Treasury Story and City Story,

His lawyer later noted that some titles in Apple's store allowed children to buy more than $100 worth of items in a single click without entering a password. Apple took a cut of each in-app sale.

The case was later combined with other parents making similar claims.

By this point Apple had updated its mobile operating system to tackle the issue.

Prior to iOS 4.3 if a user entered their password to make a purchase their device would allow unlimited further sales without authentication for a 15-minute period.

After the software release all in-app transactions required a password.

But although Apple offered refunds on a case-by-case basis, it did not publicise an official compensation policy.

Time limit

Apple's proposed settlement was first reported by news site Law360.

Apple's proposal suggests affected parties can:

  • Email in their details to qualify for a $5 iTunes credit
  • Request the $5 in cash if they no longer have an iTunes account
  • Provide full details of each in-app purchase to be reimbursed in full in credit or cash, for totals of at least $30

Apple indicates it will give claimants 180 days to submit their requests and will also award Mr Meguerian and four other named plaintiffs an additional $1,500 service award.

The plaintiffs have accepted the proposal and it is now set to be signed off by a judge in San Jose's courthouse on Friday.

Apple declined to comment when asked whether it might consider offering a similar deal to users outside the US.

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