A few weeks ago we reported that Apple had to have a heart to heart with Capcom with respect to complaints it received regarding the company’s Smurfs Village app. While the app itself is free, purchases available within the app can cost as much as $99 and apparently kids were making extensive and expensive in-app purchases and subsequently surprising their parents with exorbitant iTunes bills.
Capcom’s suspect business model aside, or rather, shall we say them taking advantage of a solid business model, part of the problem is that once an iTunes account password is entered on an iOS device, purchases can be made without re-entering the password for 15 minutes – ample time for kids to ramp up on their Smurf Berries or whatever other in-app items they might stumble onto.
As a result, Apple begin exploring a new schema to better protect parents, and that solution came with the iOS 4.3 release last week. Apple’s latest iOS update now requires a password before authorizing in-app purchases.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Miller explained: “We are proud to have industry-leading parental controls with iOS. With iOS 4.3, in addition to a password being required to purchase an app on the App Store, a reentry of your password is now required when making an in-app purchase.”
The Washington State Attorney General’s office had sent a letter to Apple last December after receiving complaints from consumers. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz told lawmakers he would review the practice. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) and other have called the practice deceitful marketing, and public interest groups question why $99 barrels for “snowflakes” and “Smurfberries” are in a children-focused game, when children may not understand that they are racking up real charges.