Freemium games, which are games that are free to purchase but require in app purchases to progress through the game are all the rage across app stores right now, but are also making for some disgruntled parents. Their kids buy games for free but the parents receive a shock in the form of a bill for hundreds of dollars. A class action lawsuit was filed in San Jose, California by parents against Apple for what they're calling "bait apps". According to Gamezebo, the judge's decision was to not dismiss the lawsuit.
Kids can rack up huge bills on freemium games
The problem lies in addition of passwords when you purchase an app. When you enter your password in the App Store to purchase an application, you have a 15 minute window to make other purchases without adding your password again. So for instance, if your kid is playing Tiny Tower, they can rack up on Tower Bucks which go for $30 for 1000 Tower Bucks. Which can advance you through the game pretty quickly! So, imagine if kids are doing that with multiple freemium games like Smurf's Village and Farmville.
Apple had requested the judge to dismiss the case but the judge dismissed Apple's request. Freemium apps might actually pose real legal problems for Apple, because according to Flurry, 65% of revenue generated in the App Store comes from freemium games. As anyone can guess, a large percentage of that can come from children sneaking around with their parents' credit cards. In terms of refunds, Apple does not have an easy system in place, disgruntled parents have to contact game developers for a refund. And then some of those game companies, refer parents right back to Apple for a refund.
Gamezebo says Apple clearly has a few key areas where it need to place its focus. One is removing the 15 minute window, or at least providing the option to remove the 15 minute window. An iDevice would therefore need to come with more parental controls. Furthermore, Apple needs to put a limit on the number of in app purchases one account holder can make at any given time. And finally, Apple needs to overhaul its credit refund policy and practices.