FTC Investigating iPhone and iPad In-App Purchases

We’ve seen numerous reports highlighting problems with iPad and iPhone in-app purchases in recent months. We’ve reported on several instances of children racking up outrageous charges in iTunes because of in-app purchases of Smurf berries. Many parents claim children don’t understand the difference between making real and virtual purchases when prompted during game play. Purchases that appear to be pretend to kids actually result in very real charges for their parents once the credit card bill arrives in the mail.

It now appears the Federal Trade Commission has taken notice and consequently plans to review “the marketing and delivery of mobile applications that charge users for products and services, such as through Apple’s iTunes store,” according to The Washington Post.

“We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz wrote. “Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications.”

We previous reported that Apple was considering a change in their current in-app purchase time limit. Today’s policy requires users to enter a password before completing an app purchase in iTunes. Once the first app is purchased, any subsequent purchases made within a 15 minute window are automatically completed without a password request.

Rumor has it Apple may reduce the current 15 minute time period to five minutes in an attempt to limit the number of accidental purchases and appease the concerns of parents. If the FTC does in fact discover problems with Apple’s current procedures, it’s possible Apple will have to take additional measures to change its iTunes policies.

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