Does Apple Owe You Money?

The tech giant is refunding millions to parents for errant in-app purchases made by kids.

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If you let your kids play with some “free” apps on your iPhone and iPad, and then found out your child racked up hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars in app fees, you’re not alone.

Parents like me received an email from Apple this week, explaining that we could be eligible for refunds for kids’ purchases. The email says:

We’ve heard from some customers that it was too easy for their kids to make in-app purchases. As a result, we’ve improved controls for parents so they can better manage their children’s purchases, or restrict them entirely. Additionally, we are offering refunds in certain cases.

The Federal Trade Commission reportedly received thousands of complaints about children’s in-app purchases from the Apple App Store. According to Reuters, the in-app purchase totals were far from chump change.

The FTC said Apple had received tens of thousands of complaints about unauthorized purchases, including one for $2,600 on the “Tap Pet Hotel” app. Other consumers complained that their children spent $500 or more on other child-oriented apps, the FTC said.

Apple’s refund offer is part of a settlement with the FTC, in which the tech giant agreed to refund a minimum of $32.5 million to customers, the Chicago Tribune said. In addition, the FTC is requiring that Apple revise its billing practices to make sure that in-app purchases have “informed consent from consumers,” the Trib said.

Are you eligible for a refund? You can review your in-app purchases by logging into iTunes and clicking on “view your Purchase History.” Use this link to submit your refund request to Apple. In the details section, enter “Refund for In-App Purchases made by a minor.” Requests for refunds must be submitted to Apple by April 15, 2015.

And if you want to ensure that your kids don’t make unauthorized purchases on your iPhone in the future, NBC News said to follow these few simple rules.

  • Don’t allow in-app purchases. Disable the feature that allows you to make in-app purchases by going to Settings, General, Restrictions, In-App Purchases, and then disable it. You’ll have to set a passcode to do this; make sure to keep it private.
  • Grace period. There is a 15-minute window after you make a purchase where you don’t have to enter a passcode to make another purchase. Disable this grace period by going to General, Restrictions, Enable Restriction, enter a passcode, then Require Password, and select Immediately. Now you’ll have to enter your passcode every time you make a purchase.
  • Secret password. Keep your password private. If your child asks to make a purchase, you can enter the password yourself.

My 3-year-old plays games on an iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. She hasn’t made any unauthorized purchases, but it’s not for lack of trying. She doesn’t know our passwords. I also set my phone to disallow in-app purchases. I prefer to pay a nominal fee upfront when downloading an app for her, rather than getting her a “free” game that has locked features that require you to pay.

Has your child made in-app purchases without your permission or knowledge? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

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