Congressman Writes to the FTC Over In-App Game Purchases

Congressman Writes to the FTC Over In-App Game Purchases

A view from game "Smurf's Village"

A US congressman wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting more information about possible consumer protection issues related to “in-app” purchases — such as kiddy game “Smurf’s Village” we’ve been talking about for months.

Spurred on by a Washington Post article (what, he doesn’t religiously read Cult of Mac?) Congressman Edward J. Markey, a senior member and former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee, fired off a few thoughts on the games that target young children.

An excerpt from Markey’s letter:

“I am disturbed by news that in-app purchases may be taking advantage of children’s lack of understanding when it comes to money and what it means to ‘buy’ an imaginary game piece on the Web.  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.”

Congressman Writes to the FTC Over In-App Game Purchases

Tap Zoo, another one of the kid's games with in-app purchases

These apps are often free to download but include real-world credit card charges that are very easy to make — unless parents are savvy enough to disable in-app purchases and check that every time the tot picks up the iPad or iPhone they are, in fact, still disabled.

This issue was bound to escalate, given the number of complaints to Apple. Even if the Cupertino company has been refunding the dicey loot to every parent who called, it was a practice that was bound to create problems — as per our recent story with the disgruntled dad creating a Facebook protest group.

You can read his full letter here (PDF).

A tip of the Smurf Cap to @LaiStirland.

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Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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