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Cap those Apps! Parents paying steep fees for apps their children download

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Even you have a child at home that has free reign over a Smartphone or tablet; you may be paying exorbitant fees that your child is unknowingly buying. Such popular games such as Angry Birds, Zombie Takeover, Playmobil Pirates, and Racing Penguin are at first offered of charge. Once children begin playing with them, they are hit with pop up advertisements for so-called "In-App Purchases." or IAPs.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - These features allow the characters being controlled by the youngsters to go further and deeper into the game.

Payments are then taken automatically from the credit cards of the adult owners of the tablet or Smartphone through an iTunes or Google account.

There is the expected "sticker shock." The first time a parent finds out about the purchases is when their credit card is rejected at a check-out or they find missing funds in their current account.

"We have heard of cases where parents have been hit with bills for hundreds of pounds as the apps are often linked to their card details through iTunes," the founder of parenting Web site Netmums, Siobhan Freegard says. "Often the bills aren't immediate and it takes days to find out they have been charged."

Apple accounts require users to input a password to clear any purchases - in theory. However, if the parent uses the password once, this creates a 15-minute window where the child can then make a series of purchases.

Even if things are above board, children who have become engrossed in a game will often pester their parents continuously to allow them to make purchases.

"App developers are not often altruistic," Spencer Whitman of app protection firm AppCertain says. "They often include in-app purchases hidden behind the free price tag. Either they offer a small amount of play, then charge for continued use; offer in-app purchases for more in-game content such as extra areas of play or upgrades; or they constantly interrupt game play to ask for in-app purchases."

The video-gaming universe is all too seductive for impressionable minds. "It's all too easy for our children to get sucked into games and, before you know it, they've racked up huge costs buying coins, berries and doughnuts," Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet says.

"You do need to keep an eye on your child's device settings and to keep your password for purchases private at all costs."

Executive director Richard Lloyd adds that "It's far too easy for children to run up huge bills on phone apps when most default settings allow 'in-app purchases' without asking for a confirmation or password.

"If your child has run up a huge bill without your knowledge, contact the app store or manufacturer, as you may be eligible for a refund."

Taking the bull by the horns, Apple says that "All iOS devices have built-in controls that give parents and guardians the ability to restrict access to content, such as internet access and age-rated content.

"Parental controls also give parents and guardians the option to turn off functionality, such as purchasing from iTunes, and the ability to turn off in-app purchases."


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