Parents Sound Off About In-App Purchases

Money clip art Since posting our article that provided parents with instructions to disable in-app purchases, we were amazed to hear the impassioned responses of our readers. It seems that in-app purchases have snuck unexpected charges in with iPhone users of all ages and that the costs can prove to be a heavy burden on families.

A few readers reported in-app purchases made by children that totaled only $5, while others were slapped with bills well over $100 as toddlers played games and inadvertently made purchases using what they believed was “play” money. One national report recounted the story of parents who received $1,400…That’s right, $1,400 US dollars in charges from in-app purchases. Read on.

Fortunately, legislators and consumer advocates alike are taking note of parents’ concerns and the Federal Trade Commission was recently asked to investigate the legality of in-app purchases. It seems that one game, in particular, caused a major concern among consumer advocates and parents as it overtook the wildly popular Angry Birds game as iTunes top grossing iTunes game. The offender? Smurfs’ Village, which allows children to purchase in-game items such as “Smurfberries” in packages priced up to $99.

On a bright note, it’s nice to know that parents are becoming more educated about the costly dangers of in-app purchases while regulators look to protect consumers from what often seems like a scam. While we surely understand in-app purchases for upgrading games and purchasing additional levels, it’s questionable why anyone would ever willingly purchase $99 worth of “smurfberries.”

However, while the look of in-app purchases may change for the iTunes store at some point, it’s important for Android users to be on the lookout, as well. The Android market just recently approved the addition of in-app purchases leaving Android loving kids in danger of accidentally draining the bank account, too.

We’d love to hear more from our readers about your experiences with in-app purchases and what you think about them. Should large dollar amount purchases be allowed in children’s games? What apps have you encountered in-app purchase problems with?  Let us know!

Or, for more information on in-app purchasing in the news, check out these articles from the Washington Post and GigaOm.