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Judge greenlights lawsuit against Apple over 'bait' apps

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.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +7

    Better idea

    Giving your kids an iOS device that's linked to an Apple ID with payment information maybe isn't the smartest idea in the first place.

    Better create an Apple ID for your kid without any payment info (e.g. when downloading a free app for the first time) and then, in the future, "gift" all paid apps to them, or use prepaid iTunes cards.

    Apple can be blamed for not really communicating these things to parents, or that it's not that straightforward to create a "free" Apple ID, without giving any payment info in the signup process. Because, if you just open iTunes and go on to create a new account (without the aforementioned way of downloading a free app), you *have to* give your credit card or PayPal info.

  1. dynsight

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Should not be allowed to breed

    General=>Restrictions

    In-App Purchases set to Off

    BUT NOOOOOO! I am an idiot who should NOT be allowed to procreate my poor quality genes, but I did anyway, and now my progeny spent the money I earned selling drugs and pumping gas on Words with Friends and Angry Birds

    Get real. Jeronimio is correct as well. Why would I tie an account with a live credit card and place it on a child's device? Better to use an iTunes gift card.

    PLUS the parents should be getting emails of the purchase, so this cannot go on too long.

    No excuse for stupidity


  1. tfmeehan

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +4

    Learned my lesson...

    the first time I got an email that one of my kids bought a couple of songs. But tell me, I haven't seen these games...how quickly can you spend $338.00 and is there any way to do it without knowing that's what your doing? Trying to find out if its a communication gap or a parenting gap. My son did chores for a week for spending that $2.00 without asking. Can't imagine over $300...

  1. The Vicar

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    There is no high ground.

    On the one hand, giving your kids a machine with access to an open-ended account is bad parenting, albeit less than many things which are much more common. (And it seems that these parents DID warn their kids away from buying more apps; they just didn't go the extra mile to find out that there are other ways to spend money via the same mechanism.)

    But on the other hand, I have to agree that Apple has not made it easy to keep an iOS going without having an open-ended account, nor have they been exactly forthcoming about warning people about the extra options such as in-app purchases (and the option to shut them off). Any measure which says the parents were engaged in bad parenting would, if applied to Apple, say that Apple was engaged in deceptive pricing.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -2

    Re: Better idea

    Giving your kids an iOS device that's linked to an Apple ID with payment information maybe isn't the smartest idea in the first place.

    You're making the far flung assumption that they gave the kids an iOS device. It could just as easily been the parent's one borrowed/used.

    Better create an Apple ID for your kid without any payment info (e.g. when downloading a free app for the first time) and then, in the future, "gift" all paid apps to them, or use prepaid iTunes cards.

    Again, only works if they have their own device. And you think it's hard figuring out how to navigate Apple's settings for this stuff, you should try setting up an account without a credit card!

    Apple can be blamed for not really communicating these things to parents, or that it's not that straightforward to create a "free" Apple ID, without giving any payment info in the signup process. Because, if you just open iTunes and go on to create a new account (without the aforementioned way of downloading a free app), you *have to* give your credit card or PayPal info.

    And its just as hard to REMOVE a credit card from an account. Apple really wants to have your pay information (which makes it really handy for the hackers to break into your account and raid your credit card!).

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Re: Should not be allowed to breed

    General=>Restrictions

    In-App Purchases set to Off


    Yeah, and where is the parent supposed to even know if an app has in-app purchases? Or that it even exists as an option?

    BUT NOOOOOO! I am an idiot who should NOT be allowed to procreate my poor quality genes, but I did anyway, and now my progeny spent the money I earned selling drugs and pumping gas on Words with Friends and Angry Birds

    You're right, you are an idiot who shouldn't be allowed to procreate. But it happens anyway. And unlike you, not every person who buys an iPhone goes off and reads every little detail about it to know of every option, like in-app purchases.

    But, beyond that, why should they have to turn it off. As stated in the complaint, they were under the impression (I know, what idiots!) that in-app purchases would be prompted for a password. Why would you expect that using the feature wouldn't prompt for the password? I guess that's where the idiots go. Instead of just turning off the feature, they expected the OS to control it like it seems to do at other times.

    Get real. Jeronimio is correct as well. Why would I tie an account with a live credit card and place it on a child's device? Better to use an iTunes gift card.

    I don't know, because Apple makes it hard not to? Because the parent figured it would be safe if the kid didn't know the password?

    And as I said, no one said it was a child's account.

    PLUS the parents should be getting emails of the purchase, so this cannot go on too long.

    Yes, because we know parents (as well as so many other people). They've got nothing better to do then read their emails constantly.

    No excuse for stupidity

    You're right. But you'll learn how to read and comprehend, if you put your mind to it. Try to understand the complaint, not just your perception of the complaint. These weren't kids who knew the password to the account, the parent's entered the password to make a purchase without realizing that the in-app purchases in the next 15 minutes would be allowed without asking for a password again.

    BTW, please show us the place in the User's Manual that describes the 15 minute window on entering your password and the implications there-in.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Re: There is no high ground.

    On the one hand, giving your kids a machine with access to an open-ended account is bad parenting, albeit less than many things which are much more common.

    But the expectation was that the account had a password, which would need to be entered to make purchases or download apps. To say it's bad parenting is over-simplifying it.

  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +2

    Re: Testudo

    You seem to take this cause very personal. Jeronimo and dynsight exposed general common sense while you've nip picking and made fallacious points.

    I think this is the way of natural selection apply to the digital forest we are in now. This case should be dismiss.

  1. apostle

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Author should take some responsibilty

    I've downloaded a few "free" Games that made no mention of their in-app purchase features. I'm an adult so understand how this "works". What wasn't clear to me when offered an in-app purchase of say "gold" or "tools", was whether this was a one time purchase or if I was giving the game free reign to purchase "gold" or "tools" as needed from that point on, without further notification.

    I'm curious as to how much money is involved in the suit. Are the parents simply looking to recoup their losses and have Apple pay a "fine", or are they after a large sum of money.

  1. cljmac

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    really? i guess sue everyone

    now you have to sue amazon on the kindle, the nook, all android devices. they all do this. at least apple and a few others let you remove the credit card from the account easily. it take two minutes to take the card out of your account. this won't go far!

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