The company says that users can claim a refund for any in-app purchases “made by a minor” without authorization and consent.
There has already been much debate over how in-app purchases are handled with both Apple and Google facing lawsuits over this. Apple settled with the FTC, modified its billing practice and will now refund users for any unauthorized in-app purchase. Google made modifications as well.
Apple has started sending emails to iTunes users who recently made in-app purchases. The email states that they can claim a refund for any unauthorized IAP “made by a minor.” Users who have a legitimate case can follow the instructions provided in the email to claim a refund. All claims must be submitted before April 15th, 2015. Apple is bound to make this offer since it has signed a consent decree with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. As part of its settlement with the FTC, Apple not only agreed to modify its billing practice, it also committed to paying $32.5 million in fines, the bulk of which will go towards refunds.
Reports about children racking up in-app purchases, paid for by their parents’ credit cards without consent or authorization, are a dime a dozen. In the past whenever an in-app purchase was made, a 15-minute window would be opened up in which subsequent IAPs could be made. During these 15 minutes, no authorization or consent was required, so anyone could essentially make the purchase.
If parents only allowed their children one IAP and authorized it by entering their credentials, the children could wreak havoc on their credit cards over the next 15 minutes if left unattended with the iOS device. iOS 7.1 brought modifications to the way iTunes Store handles in-app purchases. Now users can opt out of the 15-minute window, meaning that every time an IAP is made, they have to manually enter the credentials thus ensuring that there’s authorization and consent of the account holder.
All refund requests will be reviewed by Apple. When a claim is being filed, Apple will ask for certain information about the purchase to ensure that no one tries to game the system, thus users will have to first go through their in-app purchase records to ensure that there’s a valid claim that they can make. Once Apple conducts its checks, it will notify them via email about their refund status.