updated 10:15 pm EST, Tue February 22, 2011
Chairman letter focuses on accidental purchases
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has reportedly confirmed plans to investigate Apple's in-app purchase (IAP) policies for iOS devices. Despite the recent buzz surrounding new App Store rules for subscription content, Leibowitz wrote a letter to Representative Ed Markey that primarily focused on concerns over children unknowingly purchasing virtual items that are billed to parents' iTunes accounts..
"We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases," Leibowitz wrote in a letter to Markey, after the Massachusetts politician asked the agency to investigate the "promotion and delivery" of apps with IAP content, according to excerpts of the correspondence that appeared in The Washington Post.
"What may appear in these games to be virtual coins and prizes to children result in very real costs to parents," Markey said.
Separate reports suggest the FTC and Justice Department are also looking into Apple's new policies for subscription content, which have been met with criticism from a range of developers. The rules force developers to offer equivalent subscriptions through iTunes rather than relying solely upon outside channels, while also placing pricing restrictions on content sold through other means.