Wanton in-app purchases cost Alberta father thousands of dollars

Posted:
in iOS edited March 3
A father from Alberta, Canada, was hit with a bill for almost $5000 when his daughter repeatedly bought in-game items via In-App Purchases.

Apple reiterates that it's going to collect its commission one way or another.
Apple reiterates that it's going to collect its commission one way or another.


According to the father, Jerry Marion, his 18-year-old daughter became hooked to a freemium App Store title called "Township," and began buying its in-game items via the built-in In-App Purchase options. The game is free to download and play but heavily encourages players to spend money on in-game items.

The globalnews.ca article quoted the father as saying that the daughter "was confused about what she was buying and the fact that she was using real money." For Marion, those spending sprees reached as high as $250 a day, for a total of $4986.

Acknowledging that his daughter was dealing with social anxiety and feelings of isolation, which led to her buying these items, he reached out to Apple to ask for a refund twice. Both attempts were denied.

Only after Marion reached out to globalnews.ca that Apple relented and refunded him in full. He also reached out to "Township" developer Playrix but received no response.

The incident has given Marion insight into the addiction many In-App Purchase buyers struggle with. He now advocates for joint responsibility for parents and corporations to protect children from these purchases.

"[Parents] have to be more conscious of where we're setting up the ability to spend money," Marion told globalnews.ca, "I think she really understands now that as you go through these addictive cycles, you have to find ways to get out of them."

University of Calgary professor Tom Keenan agrees. "The algorithms are very powerful, so just about everyone falls for them at one point." Keenan further suggested that the business model of the freemium apps is to entice people to spend money and recommends parents and guardians to set up Parental Controls on their children's devices.

The incident follows a number of high-profile cases where children were enticed into spending large amounts of money on In-App Purchases. Back in December of 2020, a child spent $16,000 on the iPad title "Sonic Forces." More recently in June 2021, the child of a doctor spent $1800 on "Dragons: Rise of Berk," another freemium title.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    rraburrabu Posts: 259member
    18 is old enough to both vote and buy alcohol in Alberta. Not exactly an innocent child?
    viclauyycmwhitefred1lkruppmike1williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    GabyGaby Posts: 184member
    @rrabu  I’m assuming that she has some sort of cognitive impairment/disability. Though I could be  wrong and perhaps she is just plain stupid…
     I think Apple in the case of these sort of apps is just being greedy; there are so many cases of uninformed parents allowing kids to make purchases without understanding that there are millions of these predatory apps out there, ( though personally I think parents should be more proactive and educate their children as a lot of problems are down to lazy parenting.)  moreover you have vulnerable people who don’t understand that they’re spending real money. Not to mention those with addiction issues. The money that must get wasted annually I’m sure is staggering. I feel Apple should just ban these sort of apps. There’s no excuse for charging 99.99 for a box of coins or a stupid costume etc. They’re laughing all the way to the bank. Apple has so many streams of revenue that they would be just fine without in game IAP. They’d also be setting a great example and potentially lead other companies to end the practice entirely - Much to the chagrin of devs everywhere I’m sure…
    rrabumuthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 23
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,894member
    Gaby said:
    I think Apple in the case of these sort of apps is just being greedy; ... Apple has so many streams of revenue that they would be just fine without in game IAP. They’d also be setting a great example and potentially lead other companies to end the practice entirely - Much to the chagrin of devs everywhere I’m sure…

    I'm not sure it's Apple's job to be app police in regards to mandating the value of what developers are selling, but I do say that a threshold and penalty system needs to be in place based on the performance of the app in the marketplace.

    Example: If three or more customers request a refund in a period of time, claiming unauthorized purchases by dependents, then the developer should be penalized, such has having the app removed from the App Store for 30 days.

    This would force the developer to look hard at their business practices and evaluate the price of their "goods". This is not a physical marketplace where kids are spending hours inside of a brick-and-mortar candy store spending their parents' money. So new rules do need to be in place to manage purchases.
    dj2k3000watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 907member
    rrabu said:
    18 is old enough to both vote and buy alcohol in Alberta. Not exactly an innocent child?
    You may have missed that she was dealing with mental health issues.

    Also, Okotoks is a small town, in a very rural-religious-conservative part of the province. It's possible she doesn't have a very worldly/modern education. (I can't think of a better way to phrase that).
    lolliverfotoformatwilliamlondondarkvaderwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,254member
    It's absurd that you can spend $250 a day on these junk casual games.  Apple are allowing and profiting themselves from exploitation of addiction.  Pretty shady.
    muthuk_vanalingamdarkvader
  • Reply 6 of 23
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,978member
    In-app purchases like these is the cancer of the app-store.  I have a true hatred for them.  I've tried a few and they were so in-your face and could not advance any further into the game without them that it just spoiled the entire experience.  I've abandoned them.

    I would much rather have a trial game, then if I like it I would GLADLY pay a fair sum ($19.99?) for a game that will keep me entertained for hours/days/months.  In-app purchases are just scams as far as I'm concerned and Apple really should do something about this.  It's a part of the App Store I really hate.
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondondarkvaderwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23

    I love the irony that a fermium app is being advertised on AI while talking about the dangers of fermium apps. 
    fred1williamlondonwatto_cobraGaby
  • Reply 8 of 23
    She gives Canadians a bad name. Apple sends you emails and tell you how much you spend. They don’t hide it so she must not be putting her eyes to good use. I can’t understand such addiction. It’s not Apple’s fault she can’t spend her money wisely. 
    DnykjpRfC6fnBswilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    davidwdavidw Posts: 1,612member
    crowley said:
    It's absurd that you can spend $250 a day on these junk casual games.  Apple are allowing and profiting themselves from exploitation of addiction.  Pretty shady.
    "Township" been around for over 10 years. It's game play is similar to "FarmVille", only with a city. It has high ratings in Google Play, Apple App Store and most game reviews. I would hardly call it a "casual" game. But agree with you on calling it a "junk" game. 

    It was once in the top ten of popular games on Android and iOS. It's now dropped down to like 15.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most-played_mobile_games_by_player_count


    Why is this on Apple? You have any proof that in over 10 years since "Township" been avaialbe on mobile devices, that Apple had had many complaints about "Township" and didn't act on it? "Township" is no different than "Fortnite". Where the developers profit game plan is to lure the game players into spending virtual money (on game play), virtual money that requires real money to purchase. A gamer can easily spend $250 a day on "Fortnite" and dozens of other games using the same game plan and "exploitation of addiction". 

    What would you think that looney Sweeney would do, if Apple went after "Fortnite" because Apple don't want to be blamed by people like you ...... for "exploitation of addiction"? Epic with just "Fornite", have made way more money by "exploitation of addiction" than "Township" ever will. 

    If Apple started censoring games for this in the Apple App Store, then all it would do is fuel the people with the misconception that Apple have a "monopoly"with the Apple App Store, that they are abusing a "monopoly". And if they don't censor such apps, people like you would think Apple is being greedy. Apple can't win with these two type of people out there.

    If Apple were to drop their commission to a reasonable 15%, would you still call Apple "greedy" for "exploiting of addiction"? Or is Apple only being greedy because they are charging a 30% commission? A game player can spend $250 a day of these type of games, even if Apple wasn't getting a commission. Would Apple then still be guilty of "exploitation of addiction" because they are allowing the developers to make and keep all $250?

    Right now and for quite awhile, Apple have a way for parents to limit how much their child can spend with the iTunes account being used on the iDevice. And what happens if Apple is forced to allow third party app stores or developers are allowed to process their own payments? Would Apple still be guilty of "exploitation of addiction" because they allowed apps like this on iOS? 

    The parent company "Playrix" is bigger than Epic games. (Only "Playrix" it's not being run by a looney.) 

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Township_(video_game)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playrix

    >In February of 2021, App Annie ranked Playrix as the third-largest mobile game developer in terms of annual revenue, right behind Tencent and NetEase. According to the ratings, Playrix rose from seventh to third place, surpassing the American company Activision Blizzard— the developer behind the first-person shooter series Call of Duty.[25]In March of 2021, the company bought the Ukrainian studio Boolat Games.<

    edited March 4 mike1williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    She gives Canadians a bad name. Apple sends you emails and tell you how much you spend. They don’t hide it so she must not be putting her eyes to good use. I can’t understand such addiction. It’s not Apple’s fault she can’t spend her money wisely. 
    Well I know of no Canadians personally so hopefully not all are as bad. She’s 18 I see no mention of any mental disorder other than people here wanting to make excuses for her. Like another poster said you get a monthly statement sent right to your appleID email account so if no one chooses to view that, that’s on them. I figured this would be a toddler thing but at 18 Apple should have capitulated and told just told dad nothing they can do because here it is in black and white in the TOS. 
    mwhitewilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 708member
    Shortly after I buy a book within Apple Books I get an email notice from Apple. And an email notice from my credit card issuer as I’ve set that criteria for any “card not present” transaction. 

    After a few days surely there was a whole pile of notice that allowed this to be cut far far short of $5,000. 


    For those who hate in app purchases? Don’t make in app purchases. Personally I find Apple Books in app purchases a valuable feature. 

    edited March 4 watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23
    viclauyycviclauyyc Posts: 831member
    mknelson said:
    rrabu said:
    18 is old enough to both vote and buy alcohol in Alberta. Not exactly an innocent child?
    You may have missed that she was dealing with mental health issues.

    Also, Okotoks is a small town, in a very rural-religious-conservative part of the province. It's possible she doesn't have a very worldly/modern education. (I can't think of a better way to phrase that).
    Everyone has mental issues after they kill someone else. 

    I live 45 minutes from okotoks, yes it is a small town. But it is right beside a city where 1.3 million people live. And no people in okotoks wear funny hats or marry their first cousin.

    if a 18 year old can’t tell the difference from real money and fantasy money. The family is better off to lock up the person in basement till they are 45. Cause the real world is too dangerous for them.  There are real cars on the road and other people is not exactly always nice.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    itinj24itinj24 Posts: 33member
    If your child is attached to your credit card and isn’t very responsible, no matter what age, then set up Screen Time for them. That simple.  I have two kids, aged six and seven. I set up Screen Time for both of them and they have to be approved by either me or my wife for any download via the App Store, free or paid.  If I gave them cart blanche, the amount of charges racked up on my credit card would be up there.  If the teenager has access to the father’s credit card, then either he gave her access or there is already some type of family sharing in play. 
    viclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    Paul_BPaul_B Posts: 53member
    rrabu said:
    18 is old enough to both vote and buy alcohol in Alberta. Not exactly an innocent child?

    As an Edmontonian, Capital of Alberta, she can work at Shades and pay it off in a week.  I did the Tech work at Diamonds (Apple Tech), too bad someone decided to burn it down to the ground.  He climbed up to the HVAC system poured lots of petroleum, and the place is gone.
    viclauyycwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 23
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,500member
    mknelson said:
    You may have missed that she was dealing with mental health issues.

    Also, Okotoks is a small town, in a very rural-religious-conservative part of the province. It's possible she doesn't have a very worldly/modern education. (I can't think of a better way to phrase that).
    I grant you the mental health issues, but you seem to be saying that she also gets a pass for being from a rural/religious/conservative area? I think you may want to withdraw that.

    PS. The stupid one here is the father for letting ANYONE have access to his stored payment method in the App Store. Each family member regardless of age needs to have their own Apple ID and their own payment system for apps (or “none”) set up.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,254member
    davidw said:

    Why is this on Apple? You have any proof that in over 10 years since "Township" been avaialbe on mobile devices, that Apple had had many complaints about "Township" and didn't act on it? "Township" is no different than "Fortnite". Where the developers profit game plan is to lure the game players into spending virtual money (on game play), virtual money that requires real money to purchase. A gamer can easily spend $250 a day on "Fortnite" and dozens of other games using the same game plan and "exploitation of addiction". 
    Yeah?  Fortnite is junk too.  Those other games are junk too.  If your business model is predatory on addictive personalities and  supported by play to win whales then you're junk.

    It's on Apple because they operate the store, therefore they are, as I said, "allowing and profiting" from it.  They make big claims about curating quality and protecting the customer, and yet this shit is endemic.

    I don't care how many complaints they've had and am not making any claims about it, so don't see why I need to provide any proof.
    davidw said:

    What would you think that looney Sweeney would do, if Apple went after "Fortnite" because Apple don't want to be blamed by people like you ...... for "exploitation of addiction"? Epic with just "Fornite", have made way more money by "exploitation of addiction" than "Township" ever will. 
    They'd probably whine.  So what?
    davidw said:

    If Apple started censoring games for this in the Apple App Store, then all it would do is fuel the people with the misconception that Apple have a "monopoly"with the Apple App Store, that they are abusing a "monopoly". And if they don't censor such apps, people like you would think Apple is being greedy. Apple can't win with these two type of people out there.
    Maybe.  That's a price of Apple operating the store in the way they are.  Apple "can't win" when they do anything, because you can only ever make some people happy some of the time.  Doesn't mean they shouldn't do anything.
    davidw said:

    If Apple were to drop their commission to a reasonable 15%, would you still call Apple "greedy" for "exploiting of addiction"? Or is Apple only being greedy because they are charging a 30% commission? A game player can spend $250 a day of these type of games, even if Apple wasn't getting a commission. Would Apple then still be guilty of "exploitation of addiction" because they are allowing the developers to make and keep all $250?
    I didn't call Apple greedy, so don't put that in quotation marks as if I did.  If Apple are getting commission then they are profiting.  Even if they charge no commission they are still allowing.  
    davidw said:

    Right now and for quite awhile, Apple have a way for parents to limit how much their child can spend with the iTunes account being used on the iDevice. And what happens if Apple is forced to allow third party app stores or developers are allowed to process their own payments? Would Apple still be guilty of "exploitation of addiction" because they allowed apps like this on iOS? 
    Pretty big "if"; going a bit far beyond with the questions, don't you think? 

    And obviously not.  If it's not their store then it can't be said to be their responsibility.
    davidw said:

    The parent company "Playrix" is bigger than Epic games. (Only "Playrix" it's not being run by a looney.) 

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Township_(video_game)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playrix

    >In February of 2021, App Annie ranked Playrix as the third-largest mobile game developer in terms of annual revenue, right behind Tencent and NetEase. According to the ratings, Playrix rose from seventh to third place, surpassing the American company Activision Blizzard— the developer behind the first-person shooter series Call of Duty.[25]In March of 2021, the company bought the Ukrainian studio Boolat Games.<

    Ok?  Why would I care about the size of the game publisher?
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 23
    mr lizardmr lizard Posts: 351member
    Parking to one side whether the 18 year old knew what she was doing…

    …the father, who is presumably at least 34, let his daughter have unfettered access to his credit card. 
    hammeroftruthmike1williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,991member
    If Apple were to allow alternative payments outside the App Store these scumbag developers would likely flock to it. Then when a situation like this arises Apple can tell the parent to go to the developer and try to get their money refunded. Of course, Apple would still get the blame.

    When dinosaurs roamed the earth I worked in one of Ma Bell’s public business offices as a service representative. When the bills came out every month we would be deluged with calls from outraged customers about long distance calls they claimed they didn’t authorize. They knew their family members made the calls to boyfriends, girlfriends, porn lines, etc. Had one who’s son was in the Navy stationed in Hawaii calling his girlfriend in Australia and charging the call to his mother’s account. She knew about it but expected the operators to limit the calls to five minutes as if every operator in the world knew this. Of course, all of these people expected their bills to be adjusted without question and went ballistic when denied. 

    Anyway, my point, and I do have one, is that a good portion of the human race is beyond stupid.
    edited March 4 williamlondonwatto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 19 of 23
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,000member
    Lay the blame where it belongs. The father was either too stupid or ignorant and allowed access to purchases through his account. It is very easy to prevent the problem.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 23
    This is not down to Apple. If the daughter was using the father’s account he would have had the email notifications, as I do on my Family Sharing account.
    williamlondonwatto_cobraDetnator
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