Apple has been sued by Pennsylvania dad Garen Meguerian, whose daughter purchased in-app content totaling $200 without his knowledge, due to Apple password policies.
Apple is being sued by Pennsylvania man Garen
Meguerian, whose 9-year-old daughter, using an iPod Touch, racked up
$200 in fees playing "Zombie Caf??Â«," "Treasure Story" and "City Story"-three games that are free to download from the Apple App Store.
lawsuit, filed April 11 in a Northern District of California Court,
accuses Apple of a breach of contract and "garnering millions of dollars
of ill-gotten gains" by targeting at children games that are advertised
The highly readable class-action suit explains that the games are "highly addictive,
designed deliberately so, and tend to compel children playing them to
purchase large quantities of Game Currency"-items such as virtual
supplies, ammunition, or fruits and vegetables that the games' characters
can use to help further their tasks-"amounting to as much as $100 per
purchase or more."
lawsuit goes on to explain that Apple requires users to authenticate
their accounts by entering a password once prior to downloading the game
or purchasing Game Currency, but Game Currency can then be purchased
for 15 minutes without re-entering the password.
practice enabled minors to buy Game Currency, in one click sums of
$99.99 or more, without entering a password, causing Apple to pocket
millions of dollars from such Game Currency transactions with minors and
without the authorization of their parents, whose credit cards or
PayPal accounts are automatically charged for the purchases," the
this year, it also notes, the Federal Trade Commission was urged
to review Apple's marketing practices regarding such applications.
am concerned about how these applications are being promoted and
delivered to consumers, particularly with respect to children, who are
unlikely to understand the ramifications of in-app purchases," U.S. Rep.
Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, wrote to FTC Chairman Jon
Leibowitz, the Washington Post reported Feb. 8.
added in a public statement, "Companies shouldn't be able to use Smurfs
and snowflakes and zoos as online ATMs, pulling money from the pockets
of unsuspecting parents. The use of mobile apps will continue to
escalate, which is why it is critical that more is done now to examine
these practices. I will continue to closely monitor this issue and look
forward to the FTC's response."
15-minute purchase window was implemented after the "FTC was about to
commence an investigation into Apple's improper sales practices. Even
after this change," the lawsuit goes on, "Apple continues to sell Game
Currency to minors. Minors 13 and older are permitted to open their own
Apple accounts, and minors younger than 13 may purchase Game Currency by
using their parents' general Apple password."
does, the lawsuit acknowledges, include a warning next to the Install
button of the app explaining that the games are free to play but charge
real money for adding in-app content. Apple also advises that users "may
lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your
device's settings"-an option Meguerian and the other parents and
guardians, whom the suit is also filed on behalf of, apparently didn't
note or chose to ignore.
Apple has offered no official response to the lawsuit.
Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.