Thousands of complaints about kids’ expensive bites of Apple’s “in-app purchases” draw attention from the FTC

It sounds so innocent: the Tap Pet Hotel app for kids. But one mother complained to the FTC that her child tapped up $2,600 of in-app purchases up while using the app. Other parents complained about unauthorized purchases by children of up to $500 for apps like Dragon Story and Tiny Zoo Friends. These, and more than ten thousand similar complaints about in-app purchases without clear parental consent, led the FTC to bring an action against Apple.

The FTC said: “The settlement requires Apple to modify its billing practices to ensure that Apple obtains consumers’ express, informed consent prior to billing them for in-app charges, and that if the company gets consumers’ consent for future charges, consumers must have the option to withdraw their consent at any time. Apple must make these changes no later than March 31, 2014.”

Apple will be providing consumers with a minimum of 32.5 million of refunds for “in-app” purchases by children as a part of the settlement.

In its news release, the FTC described the terms of the settlement:

“Under the settlement, Apple will be required to provide full refunds, totaling a minimum of $32.5 million, to consumers who were billed for in-app charges that were incurred by children and were either accidental or not authorized by the consumer. Apple must make these refunds promptly, upon request from an account holder. Apple is required to give notice of the availability of refunds to all consumers charged for in-app charges with instructions on how to obtain a refund for unauthorized purchases by kids. Should Apple issue less than $32.5 million in refunds to consumers within the 12 months after the settlement becomes final, the company must remit the balance to the Commission.”

The proposed settlement will be open for 30 days of public comment. For more information, see the FTC’s news release on the Apple settlement: