US senators ask FTC to tackle rampant advertising in kids' apps for iPhone & other platfor...

Posted:
in iPhone
Three U.S. Senators issued a letter to the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday, calling on the agency to address the problem of ads in mobile games targeting kids 5 or younger.

iOS App Store on iPhone X


"The FTC has a statutory obligation to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive advertising practices. That responsibility is all the more urgent when the potential victims of such practices are children," the letter says, authored by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). "As parents increasingly permit kids to engage in online games and apps for entertainment and fun, it is imperative to ensure that these playtime options are compliant with existing laws."

The missive was sent in reaction to a recent study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, which found that of 135 apps aimed at the 5 and under market, 95 percent had some form of advertising. One, for example, encouraged children to put on clothing requiring an in-app purchase.

The Senators complain about the "manipulative nature" of this form of advertising, and suggest that the examples cited in the study violate Section 5 of the FTC Act.

Apple and app developers have often been taken to task for kids' titles on the App Store, a recurring problem being "free-to-play" apps that in reality demand in-app purchases to make reasonable progress. Some children -- inadvertently or otherwise -- have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their parents' iTunes accounts. Apple was sued over the matter in 2011.

Since then the company has taken some steps toward safeguards, for example adding notices that free apps include in-app purchases in 2013.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,481member
    The Nanny State at it again. just tell parents to act like parents and the problem goes away all on its own.

    One thing my kids learned from Dad being a channel flipper ads and commercials are bad and not worth watch. Both my kids hate ads and can not stand to deal with them so they like Netflix for this reason alone.
    edited November 2018 grifmxbaconstangmacseekerjbdragonols
  • Reply 2 of 25
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 349member
    There they go again. Protecting us from ourselves. Maybe they should write a letter to parents to let them know they are responsible for what their kids do.
    grifmxmacseekerSpamSandwichjbdragon
  • Reply 3 of 25
    Do these idiots think apps grow on trees? If the app is "free", they're making their money somewhere else.

    Also, parents who give iOS devices to their kids unmonitored and without restrictions activated are irresponsible.
    edited November 2018 jbdragonmagman1979macseeker
  • Reply 4 of 25
    This is their baseline? This is when they call for consumer protection? 
  • Reply 5 of 25
    I kind of have mixed feelings on this one. While I don’t need/want more government involvement in these types of things, it’s very frustrating to download an app for my kids just to see it’s an ad-fest. I’m not concerned about them buying stuff since my password is required for all purchases and I have IAP turned off on their iPads, but it makes for an awful experience. Every few seconds they are whisked out of the app & into the App Store to buy something or download a related app. Then they come to me “I don’t know what happened. Can you get me back to the game?” it’s garbage. Feels sleazy, especially when it’s something supposedly made for pre-schoolers. Wouldn’t mind something being done. 
    chasmmagman1979zoetmbappledappleols
  • Reply 6 of 25
    supadav03 said:
    I kind of have mixed feelings on this one. While I don’t need/want more government involvement in these types of things, it’s very frustrating to download an app for my kids just to see it’s an ad-fest. I’m not concerned about them buying stuff since my password is required for all purchases and I have IAP turned off on their iPads, but it makes for an awful experience. Every few seconds they are whisked out of the app & into the App Store to buy something or download a related app. Then they come to me “I don’t know what happened. Can you get me back to the game?” it’s garbage. Feels sleazy, especially when it’s something supposedly made for pre-schoolers. Wouldn’t mind something being done. 
    Or you could give the kids some pencils and a stack of blank papers and let their imaginations go to work instead? Just an idea.
    edited November 2018 jbdragonmagman1979macseeker
  • Reply 7 of 25
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,277member
    I would have thought there would be near-universal agreement on the notion that there shouldn't be ads in apps aimed at kids, but I see that people are so afraid of common-sense regulation that I'm surprised they're not ignoring red lights as "government overreach."

    Obviously the developers have to make a living, and nobody -- coughSpamSandwichcough -- has suggested that they don't. But some of the most popular kid's apps on the App Store are from Toca, and their business model is to charge a flat price for the app ... and the apps have no in-app purchases or third-party ads. Oh look at that ... price your app fairly and you shoot to the top of the app charts for your age category without having to gouge your audience! It's almost as though such practices build loyalty for your other apps!

    For the record I am very much in favour of regulation barring advertising and in-app purchases in apps aimed at children under a certain age, though I'd prefer it if Apple and Google (et al) could make an agreement on this all by themselves. Government regulations mostly exist because self-regulation within industries was tried first -- and failed to curb dangerous or exploitative abuse.
    muthuk_vanalingamappledappleols
  • Reply 8 of 25
    chasm said:
    I would have thought there would be near-universal agreement on the notion that there shouldn't be ads in apps aimed at kids, but I see that people are so afraid of common-sense regulation that I'm surprised they're not ignoring red lights as "government overreach."

    Obviously the developers have to make a living, and nobody -- coughSpamSandwichcough -- has suggested that they don't. But some of the most popular kid's apps on the App Store are from Toca, and their business model is to charge a flat price for the app ... and the apps have no in-app purchases or third-party ads. Oh look at that ... price your app fairly and you shoot to the top of the app charts for your age category without having to gouge your audience! It's almost as though such practices build loyalty for your other apps!

    For the record I am very much in favour of regulation barring advertising and in-app purchases in apps aimed at children under a certain age, though I'd prefer it if Apple and Google (et al) could make an agreement on this all by themselves. Government regulations mostly exist because self-regulation within industries was tried first -- and failed to curb dangerous or exploitative abuse.
    *cough, cough* Chasm *hack, cough*... Let the charts do their work and let the good apps rise and the bad apps fall on their own in response to consumer tastes. No interventions by government are needed whatsoever. Also, consider that Apple is quick to respond to consumer complaints!
    macseekerJFC_PA
  • Reply 9 of 25
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,041member
    I would rather buy a app and be done with it.  I hate in-app garbage and more often than not just flat out refuse to download the app.

    Guess what? Parents should do the same!!! Refuse to download these apps and give a negative review of the app saying why.

    Part if this is also Apples fault.  Why?  Because they really have no free demo option.  If you like it, pay and buy it easily!!!  Because of that, the so called freemium games have taken over.  Download, costs you nothing at first, but them its pay, pay, pay to play.  So in part, I think apple created the problem.  Just like they're now trying to get apps on a subscription plan do apple can get their 30% cut every month.  

    There's just a lot of apps I don't have because I refuse to play along or put up with it.   Those freemium games can get very expensive. The more in the game out get, the more us costs to get anywhere.  Don't download freemium games!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
    muthuk_vanalingammacseekermagman1979appledappleJFC_PAols
  • Reply 10 of 25
    jbdragon said:
    I would rather buy a app and be done with it.  I hate in-app garbage and more often than not just flat out refuse to download the app.

    Guess what? Parents should do the same!!! Refuse to download these apps and give a negative review of the app saying why.

    Part if this is also Apples fault.  Why?  Because they really have no free demo option.  If you like it, pay and buy it easily!!!  Because of that, the so called freemium games have taken over.  Download, costs you nothing at first, but them its pay, pay, pay to play.  So in part, I think apple created the problem.  Just like they're now trying to get apps on a subscription plan do apple can get their 30% cut every month.  

    There's just a lot of apps I don't have because I refuse to play along or put up with it.   Those freemium games can get very expensive. The more in the game out get, the more us costs to get anywhere.  Don't download freemium games!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
    This complaint is confusing. An advertiser supported app with in-app purchase options IS a free demo. 
  • Reply 11 of 25
    jbdragon said:
    I would rather buy a app and be done with it.  I hate in-app garbage and more often than not just flat out refuse to download the app.

    Guess what? Parents should do the same!!! Refuse to download these apps and give a negative review of the app saying why.

    Part if this is also Apples fault.  Why?  Because they really have no free demo option.  If you like it, pay and buy it easily!!!  Because of that, the so called freemium games have taken over.  Download, costs you nothing at first, but them its pay, pay, pay to play.  So in part, I think apple created the problem.  Just like they're now trying to get apps on a subscription plan do apple can get their 30% cut every month.  

    There's just a lot of apps I don't have because I refuse to play along or put up with it.   Those freemium games can get very expensive. The more in the game out get, the more us costs to get anywhere.  Don't download freemium games!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
    This complaint is confusing. An advertiser supported app with in-app purchase options IS a free demo. 
    Uhh, NO it’s not...

    A “demo” is a fully-featured version of the app, nothing taken out, provided as-is on a time or usage-count limited basis, so the customer can test all functionality, without missing features, to determine if it’s worthy of purchase.
    ols
  • Reply 12 of 25
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,993member
    jbdragon said:
    I would rather buy a app and be done with it.  I hate in-app garbage and more often than not just flat out refuse to download the app.

    Guess what? Parents should do the same!!! Refuse to download these apps and give a negative review of the app saying why.

    Part if this is also Apples fault.  Why?  Because they really have no free demo option.  If you like it, pay and buy it easily!!!  Because of that, the so called freemium games have taken over.  Download, costs you nothing at first, but them its pay, pay, pay to play.  So in part, I think apple created the problem.  Just like they're now trying to get apps on a subscription plan do apple can get their 30% cut every month.  

    There's just a lot of apps I don't have because I refuse to play along or put up with it.   Those freemium games can get very expensive. The more in the game out get, the more us costs to get anywhere.  Don't download freemium games!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
    This complaint is confusing. An advertiser supported app with in-app purchase options IS a free demo. 
    Uhh, NO it’s not...

    A “demo” is a fully-featured version of the app, nothing taken out, provided as-is on a time or usage-count limited basis, so the customer can test all functionality, without missing features, to determine if it’s worthy of purchase.
    Demos come in many flavors. Many demos have full functionality but limited capacity, say only one database connection or no more than 10 drawing objects in a project. Some demos are time limited. Some demos are missing advanced features. The maker of the software is usually free to decide whatever they want "demo" to imply, unless of course the curator of the outlet managing the sale and distribution of the maker's software imposes uniform standards around what all "demos" must support. I'm not aware that Apple has strict rules around "demos." I would actually prefer that Apple had uniform standards for "demos" that included the ability to "try it before you buy it" to avoid buyers remorse. From an app developer's perspective there is often a risk that people will find a way to circumvent demo limitations, but Apple is probably in a better position than app developers to prevent (or reduce) this from happening because they associate all app downloads with an Apple ID.    
  • Reply 13 of 25
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,423member
    Do these idiots think apps grow on trees? If the app is "free", they're making their money somewhere else.

    Also, parents who give iOS devices to their kids unmonitored and without restrictions activated are irresponsible.
    Then maybe we should go back to the model where people actually paid reasonable amounts for applications, at least for these kids' applications.   Pay for the apps and get rid of the advertising.   


    appledappleJFC_PA
  • Reply 14 of 25
    Recently spent nearly an hour trying to find a new game, something interesting or educational for my 5 year old. Gave up, there isn't anything. I agree that let's leave the kid apps alone. What happened to Angry Birds type games...you buy them and it's done. Rather than free and "in-app purchase". Kids just wanna play...leave them out of it.
  • Reply 15 of 25
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,041member
    jbdragon said:
    I would rather buy a app and be done with it.  I hate in-app garbage and more often than not just flat out refuse to download the app.

    Guess what? Parents should do the same!!! Refuse to download these apps and give a negative review of the app saying why.

    Part if this is also Apples fault.  Why?  Because they really have no free demo option.  If you like it, pay and buy it easily!!!  Because of that, the so called freemium games have taken over.  Download, costs you nothing at first, but them its pay, pay, pay to play.  So in part, I think apple created the problem.  Just like they're now trying to get apps on a subscription plan do apple can get their 30% cut every month.  

    There's just a lot of apps I don't have because I refuse to play along or put up with it.   Those freemium games can get very expensive. The more in the game out get, the more us costs to get anywhere.  Don't download freemium games!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
    This complaint is confusing. An advertiser supported app with in-app purchase options IS a free demo. 


    Not really, because you can't just BUY the game and be done with it. You really have to pay and keep paying. The game is designed with this in mind. You really can't get all that far if you don't pay and as you move up, it costs even more, and more and more. So it may have started out free, but then you pay $20 here, and before long,another $20, and another $20, or that special $9.99 deal or $49.99 deal, etc. It's not free. It's not a Demo.

    A Demo is where it's a full normal game, but they limit you to the first level, or a limited time, and if you like it, you pay for it one time, and you get the full game. A game you can play through from beginning to end without forever buying stuff to advance. I have some freemium games, but I refuse to spend money. I have a few, and I see where it leads. You can't get anywhere. You spend days, weeks, months just advancing a little because it takes so long to get anything to advance, and that's the whole point in getting you to spend more and more money. You didn't buy the game, you are continuing to pay to play. The game experience is really quite different.

    On the Xbox for example, you can download games to DEMO, and if you like it, you can BUY IT. It's a 1 time fee. You have a retired guy in China riding on his bike with 15 Smartphones playing Pokimon Go and spending $300 a month on just this game. That's insane!!!!

    A freemium game is not a game Demo. It's the game you forever have to pay to really get anywhere. It's never ending to keep you paying.
    edited November 2018
  • Reply 16 of 25
    zoetmb said:
    Do these idiots think apps grow on trees? If the app is "free", they're making their money somewhere else.

    Also, parents who give iOS devices to their kids unmonitored and without restrictions activated are irresponsible.
    Then maybe we should go back to the model where people actually paid reasonable amounts for applications, at least for these kids' applications.   Pay for the apps and get rid of the advertising.   


    “We” don’t need to do anything. Individuals make choices which are right for their circumstances.
  • Reply 17 of 25
    jbdragon said:
    jbdragon said:
    I would rather buy a app and be done with it.  I hate in-app garbage and more often than not just flat out refuse to download the app.

    Guess what? Parents should do the same!!! Refuse to download these apps and give a negative review of the app saying why.

    Part if this is also Apples fault.  Why?  Because they really have no free demo option.  If you like it, pay and buy it easily!!!  Because of that, the so called freemium games have taken over.  Download, costs you nothing at first, but them its pay, pay, pay to play.  So in part, I think apple created the problem.  Just like they're now trying to get apps on a subscription plan do apple can get their 30% cut every month.  

    There's just a lot of apps I don't have because I refuse to play along or put up with it.   Those freemium games can get very expensive. The more in the game out get, the more us costs to get anywhere.  Don't download freemium games!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
    This complaint is confusing. An advertiser supported app with in-app purchase options IS a free demo. 


    Not really, because you can't just BUY the game and be done with it. You really have to pay and keep paying. The game is designed with this in mind. You really can't get all that far if you don't pay and as you move up, it costs even more, and more and more. So it may have started out free, but then you pay $20 here, and before long,another $20, and another $20, or that special $9.99 deal or $49.99 deal, etc. It's not free. It's not a Demo.

    A Demo is where it's a full normal game, but they limit you to the first level, or a limited time, and if you like it, you pay for it one time, and you get the full game. A game you can play through from beginning to end without forever buying stuff to advance. I have some freemium games, but I refuse to spend money. I have a few, and I see where it leads. You can't get anywhere. You spend days, weeks, months just advancing a little because it takes so long to get anything to advance, and that's the whole point in getting you to spend more and more money. You didn't buy the game, you are continuing to pay to play. The game experience is really quite different.

    On the Xbox for example, you can download games to DEMO, and if you like it, you can BUY IT. It's a 1 time fee. You have a retired guy in China riding on his bike with 15 Smartphones playing Pokimon Go and spending $300 a month on just this game. That's insane!!!!

    A freemium game is not a game Demo. It's the game you forever have to pay to really get anywhere. It's never ending to keep you paying.
    Buying or using an app is a choice. No one is being forced to use any of these things.
  • Reply 18 of 25
    nhtnht Posts: 4,429member
    supadav03 said:
    I kind of have mixed feelings on this one. While I don’t need/want more government involvement in these types of things, it’s very frustrating to download an app for my kids just to see it’s an ad-fest. I’m not concerned about them buying stuff since my password is required for all purchases and I have IAP turned off on their iPads, but it makes for an awful experience. Every few seconds they are whisked out of the app & into the App Store to buy something or download a related app. Then they come to me “I don’t know what happened. Can you get me back to the game?” it’s garbage. Feels sleazy, especially when it’s something supposedly made for pre-schoolers. Wouldn’t mind something being done. 
    Or you could give the kids some pencils and a stack of blank papers and let their imaginations go to work instead? Just an idea.
    Do you have kids?  Just an idea.
  • Reply 19 of 25
    nht said:
    supadav03 said:
    I kind of have mixed feelings on this one. While I don’t need/want more government involvement in these types of things, it’s very frustrating to download an app for my kids just to see it’s an ad-fest. I’m not concerned about them buying stuff since my password is required for all purchases and I have IAP turned off on their iPads, but it makes for an awful experience. Every few seconds they are whisked out of the app & into the App Store to buy something or download a related app. Then they come to me “I don’t know what happened. Can you get me back to the game?” it’s garbage. Feels sleazy, especially when it’s something supposedly made for pre-schoolers. Wouldn’t mind something being done. 
    Or you could give the kids some pencils and a stack of blank papers and let their imaginations go to work instead? Just an idea.
    Do you have kids?  Just an idea.
    I WAS a kid. It’s what I had when I grew up and it helped me use my imagination instead of relying on pre-imagined content from others. :)
  • Reply 20 of 25
    nhtnht Posts: 4,429member

    Recently spent nearly an hour trying to find a new game, something interesting or educational for my 5 year old. Gave up, there isn't anything. I agree that let's leave the kid apps alone. What happened to Angry Birds type games...you buy them and it's done. Rather than free and "in-app purchase". Kids just wanna play...leave them out of it.
    Unfortunately freemium apps are far more lucrative.  I was once a whale in a pay to play game but it was in a period where it was worth it to me as a distraction and I can afford to blow money in that way.  As long as you realize that the money isn't an "investment" and you can and should leave any time it's okay.  Some folks feel trapped since they have spent so much on the game they are unwilling to quit even if it's no fun anymore.

    I don't mind edu apps that charge a fee for new lessons or grades.  At least I feel like I'm getting something for the money.  It's just like buying another workbook from the bookstore.
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