By making this small change, Apple has complied with the conditions imposed by FTC after it chose to settle a complaint against in-app purchase billing.
The stories are no longer shocking: parents often find that their children have racked up hundreds of dollars worth of in-app purchases and they have to pay real money for something they didn’t consent to nor approve. Apple has been sued multiple times and a complaint was also filed with the FTC, which not only fined the company, but ordered it to modify in-app billing procedures. Apple has finally complied.
In the past, when an app or in-app purchase was approved by an iTunes account holder, a 15-minute window would be opened in which they could make subsequent purchases without having to punch in the credentials once again. Customers were never notified that the window existed, so if a parent approved one purchase for their children and handed over the device to them, the children could continue to make purchases for 15 minutes without the parents even knowing. Apple chose not to fight the FTC complaint, it settled and was slapped with a $32.5 million fine, the money will be used to refused those affected by it.
FTC also imposed certain conditions, Apple had to make changes to in-app billing procedure before March 31st. It has followed through in iOS 7.1, a major update that was released a couple of days back. Now whenever customers make an in-app purchase, a pop-up message will be promptly displayed every single time warning the users that a 15-minute window has been opened which allows them to make subsequent purchases without reentering the password. The warning also includes a direct link to the Settings app which contains new options to turn off in-app purchases completely, to prompt for a password with every purchase or to simply leave the 15-minute window as it is and has always been.
Apple isn’t the only company that has been criticized for its in-app purchase billing policies. Just yesterday VR-Zone reported that a mother filed a class action lawsuit against Google after her daughter purchased virtual currency worth $66 within a game. While Google Play Store lets users set a password to restrict in-app purchases, it does open up a 30-minute window during which more purchases can be made without entering a password.