Interview

Current in-app purchase media storm could 'help educate parents', says Will Luton

Current in-app purchase media storm could 'help educate parents', says Will Luton
Just who should take responsibility when a child spends thousands of pounds on in-app purchases without the permission of his or her parents?

It's an issue that's exploded over the mainstream media this week, with a Eurogamer report citing one incident when a child spent over £1,700 while playing Zombie & Ninjas on iPad.

His parents - Greg and Sharon Kitchen – mistakenly gave their five year old son Danny their iTunes password thinking he needed it to access the free game, not realising he was in fact paying out for several £69.99 in-app purchases.

'Inevitable'

In response, Apple refunded the Kitchen family, though the story still gained notable press attention – both the Daily Mail and the BBC (below) adding to the coverage today.



But is it the role of developers to try and halt such incidents happening again?

Should Apple – which is in the process of settling with five parents in the US who took the company to court over similar issues – better equip the App Store to deal with errant purchases? Or should parents take more responsibility?

Games consultant and author Will Luton – who spoke to BBC News on the issue as part of a report due to be broadcast at 6pm tonight – says the current media storm was "inevitable", but fundamentally doesn't change anything.

"Child protection in technology is catnip to the Mumsnet generation," added Luton, who previously served as creative director at Bristol-based developer Mobile Pie.

"However, there are genuine concerns here and have been for some time."

An education

Luton believes the silver lining to the issue is the press attention may spread the word about just what it means when parents hand over their iTunes passwords to their children.

"This going mainstream will hopefully be educational for parents," said Luton. "They shouldn't be giving out passwords."



Luton also contests that Apple "by default" should "ask for a password for each and every IAP."

He concluded, "And finally devs should be making clear to parents, in whatever way they can, that IAPs are real money."

Look out for more opinions on the current in-app purchase storm in next week's Mavens article, due to go live on Monday.

Editor

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. As PocketGamer.biz editor, he has the pleasure of monitoring the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.

Comments

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Russell Mckee
Apple needs to start cracking down on these SCUMBAG DEVELOPERS. There are so many of them. We all know what they look like. If I'm following along in your game and you bring me to a pay screen and my "Best Offer" is a "$99.99" IAP...Your a SCUMBAG DEVELOPER. Some games when you accidentally hit the purchase button they will set a delay so a so when you least expect it a "Buy for 19.99" pop-up appears. This list can go on and on...
Adam Green
I agree with Phil actually... I think setting a reasonable 'upper limit' above which the password is always asked for is a good idea. Addittionally I think they should combine the 'password prompt' with the 'buy' prompt so that it's a bit clearer what has prompted the login request.

The other option of course is just to allow users to access any of the free content without requiring re-logging in meaning people become acustomed to only entering their password when paying for stuff...
Phil M
For me it's the size of the IAP which is the issue, perhaps passwords should become mandatory for IAP's $10 and over.
Ryan Carson
I agree, the end responsibility really lies with the service providers to always ask for passwords for all purchases, be they in-app or otherwise.

Perhaps a dual password system / parental lock might be an idea? 1 password for "free" purchases and another for ones involving actual currency.
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