back to article Google slams Play Store password window shut after sueball hits

Google has sent out an update to its Play Store giving users more control over in-app purchases after a class action suit was filed against the firm in the US a week ago. Like the earlier Apple in-app purchases case, a woman has filed in San Francisco blaming the Google store for luring kiddies into spending loads of money in …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    gravy train

    1. get your kids to play

    2. don't stop them spending

    3. make a display of how very, very outraged you are at this heinous, underhand, evil-google play

    4. threaten to go to court for extreme distress (or whatever your creative lawyer comes up with)

    5. wait for the out of court settlement (something moderate, start with $1M, go down to 3/4 of that)

    Surely beats the chances of winning a lottery!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: gravy train

      1. Make some shite Columns clone that a first year university student could knock up while plastered.

      2. Release it on a "freemium" model, knowing full well that most of your market is in the under-18 (and in many cases, under-13) age bracket.

      3. Stand back and say "wasn't me, bruv" when kiddies start directing their parents' money into your wallet.

      1. 404

        actually...

        ...we play 'Clash of Clans' along with the kids, we're better at it than they are*

        ;)

        *it's the clones you have to look out for. You also have the kiddies on their own accounts with no credit card attached. Due Diligence (yes, responsibility is an ancient forgotten concept).

    2. csumpi
      WTF?

      Re: gravy train

      You obviously have zero idea what a class action law suit is. And if you think about how much your parents and taxpayers spent on your education, much bigger fuckup than $66 on powerups.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's a "Log Out" option on Google Play as well.

    I'll bet she walks away from the ATM after punching in her PIN.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      The ATM doesn't let you do unlimited withdrawals for the next 30 minutes after entering your PIN.

      1. busycoder99

        And the play store doesn't let you do unlimited purchases either

        Only until your credit card is maxed out.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    The App Store Con

    Apple and Google new damn well what they where up to with in-app purchases and quite deserve to have their knuckles financially rapped.

    However there is also parental responsibility to make sure you know what you are putting in children's hands. I can image it's the same sort of morons that what have auto sign in for Amazon then happily let their kid use the laptop or whatever. It's probably the same sort of person who subscribes to mumsnet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The App Store Con

      In-app isn't so much the problem as how it has been used.

      If you sell an online newspaper then if you need an app you can only get payment for it once in the normal app purchase scheme. If you make the app free then you can't get any money.

      So having the ability to pay for content lets you provide a free app with a trial period and then paid for content.

      Now where it went wrong was letting games use it.

      1. Tom_

        Re: The App Store Con

        No, where it went wrong was in providing a time period where purchases can be made without re-entering the password and making that be the default setting for devices.

        1. Amorous Cowherder
          Thumb Up

          Re: The App Store Con

          Well said "Tom_", at last a sensible comment on this subject.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: The App Store Con

      Ours had to buy their own iTunes or Google Play Store cards with their pocket money, if they wanted anything. No credit cards behind the accounts.

    3. GotThumbs

      Re: The App Store Con

      knew

      not new.

      I disagree. Apple and Google expected a higher level of self-responsibility from consumers and didn't build their products/services with 5 year olds in mind. It's the adults that give these devices to infants and then cry foul regarding charges when the child simply hits buttons as one would expect.

      Problem is...there are some very ignorant people out there who don't expect to be held accountable for their choices/actions...and of course many are not. Thats the REAL problem.

      ~Best wishes

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The App Store Con

        Game developers (and the app stores for letting them) are taking the piss that a single in app (game) purchase can run to tens or hundreds of dollars when they are specifically targeting kids.

        I wasn't aware of the 30min window... but will be more careful with my kids tablet access...

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: The App Store Con

        No, you're wrong - they built exactly that with the five years old in mind to get as much money as they can easily.

        The very idea of silly games with in-app purchase and the no-password window is designed to take advantage of children users. Like the SMS to buy fashionable ringtones masquerading subscriptions. The con artist is always working - and targeting the less defensed user. Even corporations understood that's a good way to make easy money for a while - when you're caught, settle out court, and find the next scam. Off court settlement should not be allowed, a full criminal prosecution should be performed, and some executive should taste the jail food. It's the only way to stop these scams.

    4. Gav

      Re: The App Store Con

      Everyone is to blame here.

      The app makers, for following a nasty business model that is specifically designed to get children hooked on a free game, then charging for buying necessary "extras". It's a model copied directly from "the first hit is free" drug pushers.

      The parents, for leaving their children with access to web accounts connected directly to their credit card.

      Google, for allowing it all to happen.

    5. poohbear

      Re: The App Store Con

      I got some Hair Salon thing from Amazon for my kid ... was a Free App of the Day. Recently it refuses to run UNLESS I am logged into Amazon AND HAVE ENABLED one-click purchasing. I hope my instructions to my kid to 'not buy anything' were enough. From my point of view, this policy is Evil.

      1. M Gale

        Re: The App Store Con

        I have to wonder whether it would be worth one of the Reg guys writing up an article on the Worst Of The Worst?

        The mobile incarnation of Dungeon Keeper could be first on the list.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't be evil...

  5. NullReference Exception

    Gift cards

    While requiring a password will certainly help, in my mind the right way to deal with this is not to use a credit card at all. Instead, fund your kid's phone with Google Play/iTunes gift cards (conveniently available at your local supermarket.) Let your kid buy the cards themselves with their allowance money. They will quickly learn that those in-game powerups cost real money and they won't break the bank doing so. This also avoids the risk of the app store password getting shoulder-surfed.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Gift cards

      That's exactly what we did. If they wanted anything, they had to buy their own gift cards out of their pocket money.

    2. GotThumbs
      Joke

      Re: Gift cards

      Yes, but your smarter than a five year old.

      The woman in California is not.

      ~Best wishes,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gift cards

        you're

        not your

        Karma's a bitch, if you're going to pick someone else up on their spelling, you'd better make damned sure you don't make one in the same thread yourself.

    3. poohbear

      Re: Gift cards

      We ain't got such Google cards here in Sunny South Africa ... I did actually buy a tablet for my kid. It got stolen out of my vehicle (along with my 2-month-old laptop) ... thieves used a remote-control blocker.... Now I check my door after locking ...

      1. chris lively

        Re: Gift cards

        Sounds like hi tech thieves. Smash and grab is usually easier for that type of thing.

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Re: Gift cards

          Hardly a high tech method, & far better than a brick through the window, which makes noise and triggers alarms. Jamming the remote means the door isn't locked and the alarm isn't set, & you can likely rob several cars at once.

          2 way comms on your car alarm is the answer. Aftermarket, of course. Else it would be what was expected.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Negligent, surely?

    Given that Apple had to make the same (or very similar) 'fix' a while back, won't this be see as negligent behaviour when it goes to court and therefore attract much larger penalties?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phone/Tablet?

    Not sure whether this was for a phone or tablet but the Android tablets have some pretty good parental controls for this sort of thing. You set up a limited user account and then an 'admin' has to decide what gets installed on it and all purchases, even levels have to be granted to the restricted user.

    If it was a phone, then surely the child could've also rang a premium rate number and racked up a bill for thousands without any control either, but then you aren't expected to give your phone to people you don't 'trust'.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Phone/Tablet?

      I think that only came in with Android 4.3 or thereabouts, so whilst it's good for up to date systems, it's of limited widespread usage. I looked into it when we got our kids their Hudl's for example, and as those only currently run 4.2.x then it wasn't available.

      That said I've also gone the route that others above have mentioned, no cc is associated with the device play store apps, and if they want stuff they can swap their pocket money for gift cards and go that way. So far it's worked out well, and indeed is a useful part of their learning money management.

    2. Don Dumb
      Boffin

      Re: Phone/Tablet?

      If it was a phone, then surely the child could've also rang a premium rate number and racked up a bill for thousands without any control either

      I'm not sure that's still true for a lot of phone contracts:-

      Pay As You Go will obviously stop working after the pre-funded value has run out.

      Pay monthly by direct debit - The last couple of contracts I've had, worked on a credit limit. The included minutes and texts were paid, however anything outside the allowance (premium numbers, etc), were added as charges to the account to be paid at the next direct debit bill. While they don't advertise the credit limit well (or at all), occassionally I would hit the limit in the month and have to make a payment outside of the usual monthly direct debit to be able to make calls that weren't included. The limit was between £30-£100 depending on the contract. Finding out that your car insurer has a premium (from mobiles) line for making claims and you've run out of credit to call premium lines was a particular annoyance.

      I doubt many phone contracts these days just let you rack up a huge bill, without hitting a predefined limit. It isn't really in their interests to generate a bill the customer can't pay.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nanny Google.

    Why can't people parent their own damn kids?

    Here's what I do: "No, AC Jr., you're not using my phone. It is not a toy."

    If my kid had their own phone/tablet, I wouldn't even put the CC on it!

    (some might say 5 is a bit young to be running about with a glass-faced object.. but I guess it depends on the kid)

  9. GotThumbs
    Paris Hilton

    Where has self-accountability gone?

    "five-year-old son"

    Seems she's not as smart as a five year old, but she's quick to blame others for her problems.

    Typical no self-accountability person. Pretty typical when it comes to California attitudes IMO.

    1. Steve Renouf

      Re: Where has self-accountability gone?

      Yes, it's always someone else's fault. It's the "someone (else) has to pay" mentality. I put it in the same bracket as the ambulance chasers. When will people finally understand that these corporations don't produce their products for your benefit - they produce them for the company to make as much money as humanly possible off the easy targets.

      That is why you have to have your wits about you to prevent them from doing so.

      1. chris lively

        Re: Where has self-accountability gone?

        They might very well understand that.

        The issue here is that Life is just complicated. You buy an ipad and it requires an iTunes account t with a credit card for activation. The options for turning off the one click buy is buried in a nest of a hundred other options for the device. As a parent you try to pay attention and make sure the computers have nanny controls and virus software and all sorts of other crap locked down so little Johnny can't screw it up. But, at the end of the day it's just overwhelming.

        And the corporations know this. So, yes, google and apple's policies are partly at fault. More so, IMHO, because they made this easy on purpose in order to facilitate the separation of people from their money in the most expedient way possible.

        So, until we either figure out how to make such unethical behavior illegal or find a way to train everyone on how to "configure" all of their devices, then I absolutely support poking the companies in the eye when they step over the boundaries of responsible behavior.

        1. chrisbrown

          Re: Where has self-accountability gone?

          "And the corporations know this. So, yes, google and apple's policies are partly at fault. More so, IMHO, because they made this easy on purpose in order to facilitate the separation of people from their money in the most expedient way possible."

          Google did not design its policy to get fat off in-app purchases. Before the play store had even been launched Andy Rubin gave up Googles 30 percent cut of app store revenue to the carriers.

  10. Amorous Cowherder
    Headmaster

    A lot of very smug techies on here bleating about how stupid people are. Well, once again please remember they're users. They see a phone, a tablet or PC as a device, just a like the fridge, the microwave or the TV. They expect some basic safeguards to be in place as they have other priorities in life, which don't include checking every little detail on things like in-app purchases. Yes we know they shouldn't just get free'n'easy with these devices but they do, it's a fact. Yes, they should be more careful but they're not and as techies we should be advising friends and family about these dangers. So do your bit, "educate a mate"!

    1. heyrick Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "checking every little detail on things like in-app purchases" - but surely the entire point of being a parent is to check as many details as you can and take responsibility for things if you don't? Any sensible parent wouldn't tell a child the PIN to a credit card, or give a child the keys to the car, or... you get the idea. There have been enough high profile stories about in-app purchases going horribly wrong that even my mother (a card carrying technophobe) has heard about it. So, it's just another thing a parent should check. Or accept responsibility for failing to check.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        No, this is like you give five bucks to your children to buy cards, and the card seller in the next thirty minutes can charge your for far more than the five bucks you thought you allowed. Especially since manuals no longer comes with any product, very few users will ever know how their devices work exactly. The thirty minutes window is built with no other rationale than scamming users - the children ask for a powerup or the like - the parent buys it thinking he's buying that only. The child looks eagerly at how the parent has bought it - and then does the same and see it works, and does it again, of course no PIN needed for a while... until the window expires (otherwise you get into the parents' radar too fast), it's a scam by design - carefully designed and executed. The same way Telco allowed for "premius services" expensive numbers, and "ringtones subscription" - a good slice of the pie went to them, why don't get some money from children?

        The people designing this scams are not different from nigerian scammers, just they live in Mountain View, not Abuja - same way of thinking.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "They expect some basic safeguards to be in place as they have other priorities in life"

      I take it these are the same people that were taking out 110% interest only mortgages from Northern Rock without really understanding or reading the fineprint and screaming "I can Haz house" for a couple of years before screaming "oh noes I haz gun bankrupted". Right? Yea *Smug mode on* I'd say they need to start paying more attention to life and get their priorities in order *smug mode cancel*

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      They expect some basic safeguards to be in place as they have other priorities in life, which don't include checking every little detail on things like in-app purchases.

      PEBKAC

      These "other priorities" apparently include buying the latest bling on which they then load games they don't understand (the use of which sure is going to be declared a "human right" by an UN panel any moment now).

      UTTER FAIL.

  11. Avatar of They
    FAIL

    It won't work.

    Google will only put in a 'tick here to remember' it, lets face it in a few weeks people will complain about having to retype it all the flipping time.

    Just ban in app purchases. Flat fee from the start and be done with this cancerous spread of apps where you only get a very slow or crippled game unless you cough up.

    Might then smack developers into actually publishing decent games from the start and not just trying to ride a cheap and rather insulting gravy train.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It won't work.

      No, they'll just stop developing, period. Put it this way, one-and-done doesn't cut it anymore. And don't say "In the old days" because new day money doesn't carry so far anymore.

      1. M Gale

        Re: It won't work.

        No, they'll just stop developing, period.

        [Citation Needed]

  12. Irongut

    Dear Mrs San Fran

    Learn to parent your child properly.

    Explain to them that in app purchases cost real money and they won't get any pocket money, sweets, comics or whatever is dear to them if they spend money on them. You could threaten to sell their favourite toys / computer / phone to pay for excessive purchases. Don't let them play games unsupervised if they are too young / stupid to understand this.

    Don't treat a mobile phone / TV / computer / games console as a babysitter or surrogate parent.

  13. NotWorkAdmin

    Reminds me of....

    This where supposedly a claimant managed to sue a shop for tripping over her own child while inside it because the shop was responsible for the actions of the child.

    1. DaLo

      Re: Reminds me of....

      Not everything you read on the Internet is true, I'm afraid.

      1. Midnight

        Re: Reminds me of....

        It's not? Then I'm going to have to sue the Internet!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shouldn't have given the child a phone and left it unsupervised duuuuh

  15. Alistair James 1

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, Why was a five year old child using something that can go on the internet and purchase stuff, unsupervised? Parental responsibility comes in here, not down to the company if a parent is stupid enough to allow 'precious' johnny onto her phone or tablet and play while she is busy doing other things. This is getting ridiculous, punish the parent for neglect.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Because the device and app are designed to take advantage of them. Children apps with in-app purchase should be banned. Why a children app is allowed to connect to the Internet and spend money? Why the store rules which are so strict when they like, are so liberal when it comes to extract money from users?

      You do not expect to buy a Lego set and it as soon opened connects to the Internet for thirty minutes and buys new bricks every time the children pushes a button, maybe flashing it....

      Many parents are not aware of how the device really works and what the defaults are, and that's not really advertised at all. Why the default is not to block in-app purchases unless a PIN is entered each time, and the window is optional for hard-core-deep-pocket users? Why the default is designed to exploit users? It's like a car that has ABS and traction control, but they are off by default and you have to remember to enable them each time you start the car, and after thirty minutes they disable again and you have to re-enable them. Would you like such a car? Should be your responsibility to turn on ABS and traction control every time, and remember to re-enable them, or sensible defaults should be applied because when you start driving you're more interested to get safe at your destination than to setup your car enabling every system you need, one-by-one? People now want automatic AC, lights that turn on automatically at dusk, automatic safety distance keeping, beeper for obstacles, etc. etc. - why, weren't you "parented" to do all that by yourself - you just need to be careful, right?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Because the device and app are designed to take advantage of them.

        Progressive bollocks.

        Children apps with in-app purchase should be banned. Why a children app is allowed to connect to the Internet and spend money? Why the store rules which are so strict when they like, are so liberal when it comes to extract money from users?

        Yeah, those parents are good for nothing. We need us some REGULATION in here.

  16. Denzel
    Childcatcher

    Not just Apple and Google

    My kids aunt bought her a Kindle Fire last year as a birthday present (a Kindle Fire for a seven-year-old, really?). Anyway, you can't actually set it up (or at least if you can, I never found out how, though TBH I didn't look that hard) without entering a credit card number for Amazon - i.e. a credit/debit card is REQUIRED to be able to use it (even if you're only ever going to download the free stuff!)

    Yes, I will concede that the security settings for the Kindle are actually fairly good (require password for purchases, eBooks, videos, etc), but how long will it take for you to get so fed up with keep typing in your password you start getting lax and get caught out by them shoulder-surfing you enough times to figure it out? (my 3yo managed to figure out the PIN for my other half's mobile for crying out loud!)

    I got around this by using a "test" credit card number when setting up the Kindle, so although it is accepted during the setup phase, it could never be used, even accidentally, for an actual purchase.

    There is no two ways about this - in our ever-advancing "gadget" age, kids of all ages are going to be using more and more online devices, be they tablets, phones, watches, Glass and it's ilk, or whatever.

    What we really need is for someone (i.e. "app" store operators) to allow for pre-charge "wallets", totally separated from the account tied to the store, that can be topped up periodically (say once a month) and have their own logins - now my kids can have their own apps on their tablets etc (or even on my phone, it wouldn't matter with this setup), with their own capped spending amount, which means they could have some of their pocket money etc put into their accounts that they can blow on whatever flappy-moshi-furby-princess games they want, without it resulting in me not having enough money left at the end of the month to pay the mortgage.

    Yes, I realise I could do this with a whole bunch of prepay credit cards, but:

    a) why would I want the additional hassle?;

    b) technically they are legally too young to use them (although they are prepay cards, I believe they are still covered under the Consumer Credit restrictions - IANAL);

    c) depending on how poorly the store is set up (there are plenty of other stores around too), there is still the possibility of over-charge to the card; and

    d) their own "wallet" logins would allow them to share, buy things for each other and their friends, and (hopefully!) learn a little more about managing money in our ever more online instantaneous world.. (hey now this is an educational tool too!)

    Either that, or they can only have an Etch-a-Sketch until they're 18?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just Apple and Google

      "b) technically they are legally too young to use them (although they are prepay cards, I believe they are still covered under the Consumer Credit restrictions - IANAL);"

      There's a small number of prepay Visa compatible cards available. As they aren't credit cards there's no CCA issues, and you can get them for 13+ kids (my son has one of these), but they work fine for both on line and in-store chip and pin purchases.

      There's a company called GoHenry that offers this for eight year olds, with (claimed) transaction type restrictions and parental controls, but not something I've experience of.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These parents are either morons or fraudsters.

  18. Keep Refrigerated

    Isn't this what the CVV code was created for?

    You don't need to bother with time limits or passwords. Just require the CVV code for each purchase.

    Any parent who is then daft enough to let their sprog use it then has no recourse for being so careless.

  19. Joe 18

    Better search too maybe?

    I don't download "free" games with in-app purchases - I just don't see these games as truly free and don't want to mis-click and accidentally spend £100... I guess I don't trust the apps. Given how many seem to be flooding the store, why can't we have a search option to filter them out?

    And while we're there, maybe a search option to filter out apps that require an internet connection?

    Or maybe even the option to deny apps access to the internet, just in case?

    Oh, I forgot, it's not about the end user, it's all about the money....

  20. PeterGriffin

    Android and Kids = install child safe launcher

    Installed KidRead and set it up. Everytime the kiddos inadvertently press the option in their Disney game to buy something in-app - KidRead kills it. Other launcher replacements are available.

  21. pacman7de
    Facepalm

    Try and control your own kids ..

    "a woman has filed in San Francisco blaming the Google store for luring kiddies into spending loads of money in games"

    Try and control your own kids, instead of blaming Google, they're not a baby-sitting service ..

  22. Kurt 4
    Megaphone

    Windows Phone

    Windows phone already has the option to require a pin for in app purchases.

  23. RyokuMas
    Unhappy

    Race to the bottom...

    The problem is that the current model is broken throughout. Too many consumers want something for nothing, which has fueled the rise of the IAP model - indies are forced to adopt it as there are usually loads of "free" alternatives to their app, so releasing a paid-only version is suicidal, while big studios treat it as a licence to print money - hook them with free stuff, then switch them into paying.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if both free apps and IAP were banned (apart from say free trial, paid full version) - I firmly believe that this would benefit the end consumer as the focus would shift more to quality rather than quantity as only decent apps would make money.

    Of course, this could never happen without doing something to tackle the Android piracy problem...

    1. M Gale

      Re: Race to the bottom...

      Of course, this could never happen without doing something to tackle the Android piracy problem...

      The only Android piracy problem is the one in your head.

      No, really. I've seen some bloody ridiculous reports that claim 90-odd percent of Android and iOS software out there is an unauthorised copy.

      And then I actually go out and look at the real world, and come to the inevitable conclusion that these reports are complete and total shit.

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