back to article Europe: Apple could NOT care less about kids' in-app cash sprees

The European Commission has put Apple on the naughty step over its apparent failure to tackle costly in-app purchases. But the EU body gave Google top marks for the suggestions it put forward. On the back of mounting complaints, the EC earlier this year invited both companies for a chat about the way games and other apps can …

  1. MrT

    "A spokesman for Apple told El Reg..."

    ... it all sounded so credible up to that point ;-)

    1. SuccessCase

      Re: "A spokesman for Apple told El Reg..."

      Rather seems Apple are getting criticised for not going further than already having implemented the features Google are only just getting around to implementing. Adults have full and complete control over all aspects in-app purchases. They can ensure passwords are always required or turn them of entirely. Apple made the changes last year in response to criticism from authorities in the US. Additionally anyone can get a refund for any in-app purchase made in error.

      Apple are way ahead of Google in that regard just as they always have been for all manner of app permissions. They have, for example, now implemented a family sharing feature so families don't get hit multiple times for each kid they have that wants an app.

      1. Anonymoist Cowyard

        Re: "A spokesman for Apple told El Reg..."

        Google has had that stuff for years. From the outset IAP were password protected purchases

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: "A spokesman for Apple told El Reg..."

          Er, so were they on iOS. The problem occurred because, just like Android, iOS allowed a grace period of (IIRC) 15 minutes after one purchase before you had to type the password to make another. Your sprog could make as many purchases as they liked during that 15 mins.

          What Apple did was to make the severity of the restriction user configurable. At one end of the scale you can't make in-app purchases on a device at all.

  2. btrower

    They'll just find a new way to cheat

    Unless they get penalties commensurate with the profits already received, system-wide, they will simply work to find another way to cheat. We all know that. This is just the usual window dressing.

    It does not have to be this way.

  3. Trollslayer


    OK, I'm not.

  4. Arctic fox

    Regardless who is the good boy here or the "less bad boy" I feel ......

    ..........that a little bit of rewriting is in order. In my opinion the following:

    "to prevent direct exhortation to children,"

    should read as:

    "to prevent direct extortion to children,"

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: Regardless who is the good boy here or the "less bad boy" I feel ......

      The answer is simple, all in application purchases are null and unenforceable debts if there is no adequate protection mechanism in place. If (cr)apple get hit in the pocket rather than their silly customers getting hit perhaps they will sit up and smell the grass.

      Mind you why anyone would be silly enough to give a child the keys to waste money in something as pathetic as silly electronic code pack purchases I cannot understand.

      For god's sake or the child's help them to get a life.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Regardless who is the good boy here or the "less bad boy" I feel ......

        Your kids at uncontrolled and uncontrollable little shits ... blame apple. WTF?

        ... yawn, the Apple haters are so predictable, they are the same people whose children are uncontrolled little shits

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Regardless who is the good boy here or the "less bad boy" I feel ......

        I see we have at least one idiot down voter with nothing better to do tonight, face it the crapple crooks deserve to be shorn of their money stealing ruse, or are you so simple minded that you think they make the best nannies in town.

        Hint they do not, they make rubbish for silly simple minds.

        1. Mike Bell

          Re: Regardless who is the good boy here or the "less bad boy" I feel ......

          Please can we have an option for 'Anonymous Twat' as well as 'Anonymous Coward'?

        2. fuego

          Re: best nannies in town

          Wow. Just... wow. Having an axe to grind is one thing. Then there's whatever the hell is wrong with you.

          Did the ghost of Steve Jobs piss on your kids or something?

          Seriously, reel it in, mate.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: best nannies in town

            Sorry no one could understand, the comment was not aimed at jobs or his toys, but at the simple minded parents who though he made nannies for their run riot kids. I guess one upside is that while the kids are running up bills for their kids they are not running round in the streets. The down side is the kids arriving a school with very poor motor skills. They simply failed to learn how to use their hands arms and legs. Hence I support the comment about crap nannies and rubbish parenting.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Regardless who is the good boy here or the "less bad boy" I feel ......

        (cr)apple? FFS, how old are you?, rather renders what you say moot. I think anyone with a brain would agree that using your phone to babysit your kid and letting them have your App Store password is irresponsible parenting, irrespective of platform. Thats not how you hypocritical fandroids think though, is it?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Regardless who is the good boy here or the "less bad boy" I feel ......

          I am fully equal opportunity I loath all the over priced almost telephony free 'mobiles' that so many suckers think are the answer to everything. That includes ALL the family dummy* slabs I call only to find that voice quality is hopeless. I have to stop what I am doing to 'text' which may or may not arrive within several hours. Useless when I need an answer within minutes.

          *They are Android dummy slabs by the way.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Regardless who is the good boy here or the "less bad boy" I feel ......

          "letting them have your App Store password is irresponsible parenting"

          I guess you must be new to this issue, as you seem to have completely missed the point of the scam. The default setting on some devices allows in-app purchasing to be done WITHOUT needing a password.

          This is why it catches parents by surprise, as even without giving the kids the password the kids are able to make unlimited purchases that the kids themselves might not realise is involving real money.

          Unbeknownst to the parents, when entering in the password to buy the game this also pre-authorised all in game purchases. This is not obvious when buying game, it does not say this when buying it and no option is given to not authorise this, it is setting buried in the device options settings that you wouldn't think to look for prior to hearing of this scam, as prior to hearing about the scam it would never occur to you that 'respectable' companies would engage in such obvious fraud. So obviously parents don't disable the default setting they aren't even aware of. Market games at kids at really cheap or free prices, kids pester parents for it, parent seeing free game made for kids agrees and installs it, while kid plays the game the game offers extras that appeal to them, kid then buys these without ever needing to know the password. Result parent gets huge bill for 'free' game, all without the child ever having been given a password.

          Given that so many people respond to this issue with some insult about giving the kids the passwords shows that they, just like the parents, assume that a password is necessary. So it is not that the parents are gullible or stupid or neglectful, it is a scam that permits an action that no reasonable person would expect is allowed to happen. The parents, just like those criticising them, assumed that any purchases would need a password. It is a scam by both the game makers and device manufacturers that they allow this mechanism for purchases without a password.

          (I know this applies to kindle fire, can't speak for the other devices.)

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. rvt

    I have a option in iOS to disable in-app purchases, is there anything else the EU want's?

    1. DuncanL

      re: is there anything else the EU want's?

      Mandatory apostrophe usage training?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes ban the fraudulent traders and scoff law junkies. Remember the last time the liars failed to follow a court order, lying scum with carp products.

      Perhaps they might produce something like a mobile phone and lift the product standards rather than dropping them below the level of public all offices; that's coin boxes for the plebs.Mind you

      EE have a hell of a lot to answer for; why is their service suddenly so rubbish?

      1. fuego

        Fraudulent fishermen

        Lying scum with carp products. Jesus! Didn't realise the coarse fishing scene was quite so sinister.

        I'm guessing you're the same spittle flecked ranting AC I replied to earlier.

        To help me understand, I want to ask a question. No subtext. No agenda. What is it about formats, be it phones, tablest, games consoles, OSs, whatever, that gets people quite so worked up?

        Infantilist tribalism (obviously) plays a part, but still, I just don't understand the venom people display towards anyone who decided to spend their dough on a different product.

        It's such an common thing on these forums. It's actually depressing to think that the Reg (purportedly being a sci/tech site) should attract a readership of the brighter minds among us.

        How disappointing then that when a newcomer arrives they just find all the usual partisan 'crapple is shit', 'shamesung is shit' bollocks that you see on gizmodo.

        Guys, have a fucking word with yourselves.


        Let's play nice.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Fraudulent fishermen

          See icon

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google playing ball

    It's a bit surprising, but it looks like these days Google is trying to work with and satisfy regulators as much as they can... I guess they're trying to get brownie points for when they'll have to discuss the stuff they really care about. Like taxes.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Google playing ball

      When they'll have to discuss the stuff they really care about. Like taxes.

      Correct reasoning, wrong guess. The discussion which they want to avoid is how all of this freebee scorched earth (android, gmail, etc) ensure and enshrine their unquestionable monopoly in search and advertising.

  7. chris lively


    Out of the major companies that have mobile app stores (Apple, Google, Amazon - does MS even have one?) I'd have to agree that Apple has had great controls for quite a while. So the EC's moaning at this point seems to be completely unfounded.

    My family has iPhones and iPads. I've turned in-app purchases off on all of those devices and enabled a PIN code that has to be entered to modify those settings. I've also turned off the ability to install and delete apps... and I was able to do that a LONG time ago. Finally, when I do go ahead and temporarily turn on app store (including in-app) purchases, Apple sends me an email confirmation.

    What more do they seriously need to do? Maybe the EC could focus on things that are actually a problem at this point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: huh?

      Every time you buy a car you have to remember to turn on airbags and any other security devices? When you extract your card from an ATM do you have to remember to logoff? Should your AV, FW software, or any of that kind, when installed, be with every feature OFF, and unless you turn them on one by one, leave you fully unprotected? Should your camera be configured not to save photos unless you turn such an option on explicitly? Or your software avoid to warn you to save unsaved data before closing, because, hey, you should know you have to save your data before closing it, you're not a child, right?

      All those settings should not be turned on manually after every purchase - they should be on by default.

      This is the simple old trick to get easy money from naïve users - like unwanted services on by default on many kind of contracts- especially when you know that most of your users are not skilled enough and could be easily deceived, especially now devices come with no manual at all - although naïve users usually skip manuals. There's a boundary between greed and sensible business practices, Apple and others trespassed it more than once. This is like the old premium calls, and ringtones subscriptions, ways to attack through "social engineering" techniques the less protected users. Just now performed on a very large scale by companies most people trust - "hey, it's Apple, it make the greatest phones, I do not believe it will scam me...", and they took full advantage of the situation.

    2. Anonymoist Cowyard

      Re: huh?

      Huh, you have to turn them OFF on iOS? On Android you need to supply a password by default to buy an IAP.

      So explain to me this. "I'd have to agree that Apple has had great controls for quite a while".

      I think the point is, Google (and by extension Amazon) already do enough in that:

      They don't use the wording "free" on the store listings.

      They identify if an app has IAP

      They default in factory configuration to needing to put in a password to buy things IAP.

      Apple do NONE of these things.

      1. gisabsr

        Re: huh?

        None of those things? That's odd, because with freemium apps on iOS, IAPs require passwords, just as apps do by default. You can't turn that off. You can, however, turn off in app purchases entirely in the settings.

        Apple do use 'free' in the store listings, but only where the price normally goes. Seems reasonable and consistent, no? Just like just having 'install' where the price normally goes on the Play store.

        Apple identify right under the name, at the top of the listing 'Offers in-app purchases' when the application does. They always have.

  8. StimuliC

    When will adults take responsibility for securing their own devices

    It amazes me that the EU thinks it should mollycoddle the people of Europe, protecting them from their own ineptitude.

    It also amazes me the number of cretinous idiots there are, around the world, that believe that it is not their responsibility for managing their children and making sure that they spawn don't spend their money. Yet they are the ones that give their offspring the passwords.

    Google even has settings that allow the children to purchase without even entering a password. Strangely enough, on the other hand while I am able purchase in-app and off the Google Play store willy nilly without verifying any information at all, just click to confirm with my Apple devices I have to verify the 3 digit security code off the credit card and re-enter the password to my iTunes Account.

    Maybe, someone in the EU has been getting a little campaign funding under the table from Frick and Frack that run Google??? Maybe promises of Cities with free internet service from them?

    I left Europe 11 years ago because of the absolute crap that was being pulled by unelected and elected dipsticks within the cogs of the broken European system! The ridiculous bias towards protecting the interests of certain countries over those of others and the corruptness of the whole system. I see that it has never changed, it has merely gotten worse!

    1. The C Man

      Re: When will adults take responsibility for securing their own devices

      If Apple was that safe how come they were forced to pay $32,000,000 in fines. You seem to expect Europeans to be fleeced without redress but Americans not.

      All Europe is after is Apple to say "The game is free but there are charges to pay if you play".

      Blackberry adds the notifications and has for a long time. Google is following suite. Apple is not worried that it's users may not be able to find the money to feed the kids because of these charges.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When will adults take responsibility for securing their own devices

        Because currently, they are the ones with a massive target on their back!

        "All Europe is after is Apple to say "The game is free but there are charges to pay if you play"."

        It fucking does, you ignorant buffoon! And has done for a long time.

  9. DudeMan

    Implement what?

    Apple already has fairly tight password protections and options on their devices, what is the EU asking to change? It's not so simple for kids to make in-app purchases, unless the parent is dumb enough to give them the iTunes password, in that case, don't blame Apple. How about we try holding parents responsible for their and their kid's actions, what a concept...

  10. DerekCurrie

    Parents: Do Your Job Please!

    Obviously, we live in an era when quite a lot of parents outright refuse to be parents and instead expect the world at large to do a lot of their job for them. Clearly, this applies to kids buying stuff online. Apple has been providing tools for years to stop kids from buying anything they like online, including through the iTunes Store. If parents don't bother to use them, that's the parent's fault, not Apple's. And yet, such lazy, irresponsible, asinine parents complain anyway, ironically emulating little children.

    This is total rubbish:

    "But Apple has sat on its hands and decided not to act at all, the EC claimed:

    "Although, regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns, in particular payment authorisation.

    "No firm commitments and no timings have been provided for the implementation of possible future changes," the EC declared."

    LIARS is what I believe the EC to be, either that or profoundly and willfully ignorant. Here's a far more informative article about what Apple has ACTUALLY been doing for years, as well as what they are planning to do in iOS 8 this fall:

    Would that ANY other company was as conscientious as Apple. For down arrow dingers, I dare you to name one. If you do, I'll be applauding them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Parents: Do Your Job Please!

      Do you understand how many people bought a smartphone for the first time and are not IT experts, and have no clue about "in-app purchase" from "free" games? Do you remember how many parents were unable to programme a VCR and needed to ask their children? Do you believe people who maybe used a GameBoy understand the new "marketing models" devised to get as much money as they can from children playing games? They see a nicer GameBoy only, and are not aware of what lurkes inside - and marketing try to ensure they don't know about. Why Apple settled off-court in the USA? Because otherwise a lot of "bad marketing" would have come from a trial, and let more and more people understand what risks the default settings are designed to expose them.

      Many parents are exposed to "technology threats" well beyond their knowledge, and evolving very rapidly. Greed people are ready to take advantage of them, and don't care at all about the way they can extort money, as long as they can.

      Sure, I guess there's a simple solution, create a "license" people should get before being able to buy a smartphone, I guess Apple & C. wouldn't like it at all <G>.

      And when a trojan will enter your PC or phone, steal your bank account, and encrypt your data, don't blame the OS, blame your parents who didn't teach you to stay away from dangerous web sites and emails...

  11. RichM.ME


    They were able to provide a specific example of Google compliance but none of Apple non-compliance. Perhaps Apple didn't pay them off sufficietly? Maybe it would be interesting to investigate who bought their kit...

  12. davenewman

    The problem is the advertising/description

    In the Apple App Store, apps with in-app purchases are still marked as free. It is only by reading the details you discover they can cost you later. It is the app store descriptions that they don't want to change.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: The problem is the advertising/description

      "In the Apple App Store, apps with in-app purchases are still marked as free. "

      And also marked with the phrase Offers In-App Purchases directly under the "Download" button when opened in iTunes, or the iOS App Store. (Note that you cannot install the app except from inside iTunes or the iOS App Store. The link takes you to the 'shop window' page, but you can only view in iTunes or the iOS App Store. You can't download from there.)

      You'll also note the list of "Top In-App Purchases" in both locations. It's rather hard to miss. Note, too, that the full description is required by Apple to state very clearly that in-app purchases are offered. This is non-negotiable.

      Seriously, what more do people want? iOS 7 already makes it bastard hard to 'accidentally' make an in-app purchase. Even in earlier versions, iOS would ask you for your password after 15 minutes or so.

  13. Wintermute

    Personal Responsibility

    No one is forced to buy iOS or Android apps. Life goes on quite well without them. If you do decide to buy an app, then it is your responsibility to learn how purchases work on your device.

    Complaining to the EU is the equivalent of buying a car without first having learned how to drive. After you have reduced your new car to a smoking pile of rubble on the side of the road, you then blame the person who sold you the car for all your woes.

    Are we not adults? Are we not responsible for our own actions?

    1. Nuke

      Re: Personal Responsibility

      Wrote :- "Complaining to the EU is the equivalent of buying a car without first having learned how to drive. After [crashing] you then blame the person who sold you the car

      Actually, the EU require you (via member governments) to learn to drive before being let loose with a car in Europe. Governments also intervene to prevent a free-for-all on the road by having road laws and things like traffic lights.

      So wrong analogy.

  14. Stacy

    Mandatory Credit Card

    Great! If you are a geek then you can go and find all of the settings on each phone, and computer and turn off the empty my bank account function.

    Why did you have to do that in the first place? My App Store account has my (old) credit card number attached to it because Apple demanded that for me to create an account to download the free OS update when I bought the machine (Lion to Snow Lion before the laptops in shops came with the OS by default). Why? It was a free update, there was not a single reason why Apple needed this information.

    My Google account doesn't have my account number, because i don't pay for Apps and don't want in app purchases. And Google never even asked me for one.

    My Windows Store account does not have a credit card because I don't want to pay for apps and they never even asked for it.

    This is the first thing Apple should do - stop forcing people to enter a credit card to buy free apps - once that is done the problem is solved :) Free must be free as they have no way of charging you!

    (At the same time I agree that parents should know what their kids are up to, and not give them these things as toys without supervision)

    1. JaimieV

      Re: Mandatory Credit Card

      Not mandatory at all. When you set up the payment options, "None" is in the list.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tricks of the trade Stacy.

    Getting the credit card details off you is a big win.

    Apple tricked you because they know that once they have it purchases are likely.

    However there is now a trick undo Apple's trickery. Some find it, many do not.

  16. NT1

    Use gift cards.

    Can't comment on apple, but I use gift cards on android because I don't trust using my debit/credit card. Once it's run out it's run out! Can always get another for myself as the cost is the same, penny for penny.

    My daughter is not old enough yet to want in app game purchases, but when she is, it's up to her whether she wants to blow her full monthly "gift card" allowance in one go. She'll learn. And if she doesn't, tough! Seems to me as much about bad parenting, as well as deception/misdirection from the software companies - platform or app.

    1. Jes.e

      Re: Use gift cards.

      I'm an Android and a Mac user.

      Interesting little detail about the Apple credit card registration process (which WAS required for me to simply apply OS updates.)

      Apple did not accept my disposable MasterCard credit card in its registration.

      I was required to enter my actual bank VISA debt card tied into an actual bank account!


      1. JaimieV

        Re: Use gift cards.

        And again. "None" is an option.

        1. F Seiler

          Re: Use gift cards.

          >> Last Modified: Jul 14, 2014

  17. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    But Apple DOES care, it cares VERY MUCH ...

    about collecting all that 30% tithing (commission) that these unwary parents pay.

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