updated 02:10 pm EDT, Fri April 13, 2012
Dispute over scope of iTunes terms of service
A US District judge, Edward Da Vila, last week upheld four out of five claims in an ongoing lawsuit against Apple over so-called "bait" apps, reports say. The plaintiffs are a number of parents who last year had their class action suits consolidated by a federal judge in California. All of them have complained that Apple marketed certain childrens' apps as free, but that in reality the apps allowed children to buy virtual goods with real money, resulting in bills between $99.99 and $338.72.
The apps exploited a now-resolved gap in App Store security. Downloading an app in iOS normally involves entering an Apple ID and password; previously, though, there was a 15-minute window in which follow-up purchases could be made without another password check. Children would start playing a bait app after their parents downloaded it and then buy the virtual goods without trouble.
In upholding most of the claims, Da Vila said sufficient reason was demonstrated to continue the case. "Contrary to Apple’s argument, Plaintiffs have alleged with specificity which misrepresentations they were exposed to, their reliance on those misrepresentations, and the resulting harm," the ruling reads. "Plaintiffs pled specific facts that Apple 'actively advertis[ed], market[ed] and promot[ed] its bait Apps as 'free' or nominal."
Apple's position is said to be based on contract law. One issue, for instance, whether each in-app purchase is a separate transaction, or if iTunes' terms of service applies to all purchases, as Apple argues. The rules claim that a user is responsible for ensuring their account isn't abused by others. The application of contract law to minors is a topic at stake.