Apple ratted out Google to the FTC over in-app purchases made by kids

by: Gary SimsJuly 10, 2014

ftcbuilding-e1354748196126 TheNextWeb

Do you remember the story about Apple having to refund millions of dollars to parents after it transpired that children could make in-app purchases, for real money, without their parents knowing about it? As a responsible, mature, technology leader, what do you think Apple did? Yup, you guessed it, the Cupertino tech giant cried foul and told the FTC to go and investigate Google, because it isn’t fair that only it should get its wrists slapped.

Ramirez had targeted Apple after it was revealed that children had spent millions of dollars without their parents' knowledge.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, POLITICO, an American political journalism organization, has obtained a previously undisclosed email between Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. In the email Sewell sends Ramirez an article which criticizes Google’s in-app purchase mechanism. “I thought this article might be of some interest, particularly if you have not already seen it,” wrote Sewell in an email which was also copied to Democratic Commissioner Julie Brill.

Previously Ramirez had targeted Apple after it was revealed that children had spent millions of dollars without their parents’ knowledge. One mother had told the FTC that her daughter spent $2,600 while playing the game “Tap Pet Hotel.” At the time Ramirez said, “Whether you’re doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply. You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorize.”

Apple wasn't very happy about the terms of the settlement.

Apple wasn’t very happy about the terms of the settlement as it had also been forced to pay up in class action settlement that it reached with parents during 2013. Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote, “It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy. However, the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.”

But that “noble” gesture to just “accept it” didn’t mean that Apple weren’t going to try and do Google some harm, if it got a chance. Not that Google isn’t without fault. It’s in-app purchase mechanism was just as broken as Apple’s and like Apple it has since modified the way it works. Google is currently being sued by a concerned mother after her son purchased $65 worth of game currency.

What do you think? Should the FTC investigate Google’s in-app purchase mechanism? Is Apple playing dirty?

  • fatspirit

    Apple is playing dirty. And, of course, FTC could investigate Google’s in-app purchase mechanism, but currently Google Play app has an option to ask password for EVERY purchase, so I think it’s not a big issue.

    • TheCrusader

      maybe google will have to make that option more visible to user who don’t know shit about smartphones and how the Play store app works :D but i guess this will be over pretty soon and with no huge backdraws for google. only Apple that once again made itself a little more unpopular (at least in my books)

      • Dale Emery-Smith

        I think the option is on be default, I’ve never had to turn it on

        • mobilemann

          mine was set for 15 min i think for default. (4.4.2 stock note 3 at&t) However i don’t think apple’s playing dirty, I also don’t think google has anything to be worried about, as they have had better controls like 15 min refund policy for this type of thing, and you can set them to ask for a password every single time.

          • TheGCU

            C’mon, we all hated the kid on the playground that would say “But he was doing it too!” And that’s exactly what Apple is doing here. They have a setback, so they need to make sure that the playing field is as level as possible, because otherwise they have no chance of keeping up.

          • mobilemann

            i’m saying i think google would do the same; and AA wouldn’t cover it. I just don’t like how it’s like a team sport. It’s not. I mean, it’s fine if it’s just cheerleaders, but i like both platforms, and don’t understand the perpetual need to make yourself feel better by bashing other users (often without the knowledge to even fully understand what you are talking about.)

            w/e tho! just passing time at werk:D

          • Dennis Deveaux

            15 minute refund policy isn’t for in-app purchases – it’s just for purchased apps in general.

      • TheGCU

        They have the option, that’s good enough. It’s not unreasonable to ask consumers to educate themselves a little as well. It amazes me how little people know (or care to know) about something they use constantly every day. It’s nobody’s job to hold your hand. Apps have menus and settings for a reason, and if you’re using your phone/tablet as a babysitter, that’s your real problem.

        And seriously, suing over $65? Sure, I’d be mad, but she spent more than that in legal fees filing the lawsuit.

        • Craig Trunzo

          The $65 thing won’t float. The difference is that the lawsuit Apple paid up on was before they made changes to the purchasing process. The $65 thing for Google was after Google already added the password every time option.

          And I agree 100% about the option being there is sufficient and consumers need to educate themselves.

          It’s like a car. Sure, there is a BASIC test to pass for a license to drive, but advanced techniques are rarely taught or tested. Sure, you can make a k-turn in DMV parking lot, but how about properly handling an ice-covered road with a downgrade? It’s not Ford’s fault that you smash you car into a pole and that involves life and limb, unlike google’s kiddie spenders.

          • TheGCU

            I just have to question her thought process in filing the lawsuit. I know it’ll get thrown out (laughed out?) by the judge. Why even file in the first place? Or at least ask for something to make it worth the effort. Silly Americans will sue over anything lol.

          • Nick DiLello

            Not all Americans…only the greedy ones that lack common sense! ;)

          • Nick DiLello


        • Nick DiLello

          Agreed, too many parents state “my kid knows more about our tech than I do”…that’s the problem, educate yourselves dammit! If a 9 year old (or any age) knows more about the technology in your house learn as they did. Would you let them work on your car because they (appear) to know more than you do??? Too many parents think it is innocent like landlines used to be, but my cellphone can do more than my computer and I think most cellphones today are multicommucation devices like mine. If you don’t understand technology and dont want to learn it stick with a cellphone that has no internet and make sure text cannot be used…but even that could cost you $$$ as minutes can be expensive too. I think the bottom line is that many parents are not doing a very good job of parenting! :(

  • Jeremy

    This is propaganda

    • mobilemann

      yeah, typical. Why talk about tech when we can form teams. Logic.

      • briarwood

        You two of course realize that by clicking on this post you have helped to ensure that AA will continue to cover such things, right?

        Hilarious, complain about something but help to perpetuate that same something by your complaining.


        • mobilemann

          pointing out a problem doesn’t condone it. However, it does add page clicks which are counter to what i would eventually want out of this, so you do have a point.

          but yeah, this is a forum guy. Do you feel better about yourself? What jokes.

  • Desi WN

    An apple is an apple it gets rotten in the end…and there always is a rotten apple to spoil it for the rest of us.

  • Gator352

    Apple reminds me of when I was a child blaming others so I wouldn’t get into to much trouble and/or taking my friends down with me so I wouldn’t be the only one….

    Apple is a 3 year old child with too much money….

  • s2weden2000

    nice one timMy..nice one…

  • Makes apple look even worse, didn’t think that could happen.

  • TrixzD

    But Google did it aswell so we thought it was ok…….. Lol like a little child getting told off

  • rickrom

    wow what innovation!

  • sdthiele

    If Google did wrong then they should pay. But everyone knows who the little bitch on th playground is.

    • JarvisEMontoya

      Google is paying 80$ per hour! Work for few hours and have more time with

      friends & family! On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from

      having earned $4151 this last four weeks. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve

      had. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it


      Here ­­­­­­­­­is ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­started,—– J­o­b­H­u­g­o.C­o­­­m



      • Jayfeather787

        Aw enough of your bullshit. Shut up already.

  • Sequoia46.2

    Apple “aren’t” plural…

    • Sorry about that, my bad, I must have had a brain-fade when I typed that,

      • Sequoia46.2

        No worries, grammar police just looking out for you.

  • Seriously?

    “Apple weren’t very happy about the terms of the settlement.”

    “Are Apple playing dirty?”

    So, is “Apple” a plural now?

    • guest

      Get over it, people make mistakes all the time. This isn’t a grad school paper being turned in for a grade.

    • Sorry about that, my bad, I must have had a brain-fade when I typed that… but good to know that the grammar police are out in full force making sure that every word is sufficiently scrutinized.

  • too many contractions and mixed plurality makes this story way to hard to read. interesting, but what a chore.

    • takpro

      yeah, not to mention the lack of capitalization!

    • guest

      Then you should be only reading English grad papers…. So you can read with those made up rules.

  • takpro

    “so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.” This is the most shocking part of the story; Apple deciding against a long distracting legal fight! I’ll mark this day on my calendar.

  • philosoweed

    Why isn’t the responsibility of the parent(s) being questioned? My 3 children all have access to tablets or phones, but they wouldn’t dare purchase anything without first asking me. They understand what free and purchase means, they ask my permission before every app download. You can’t just hand your child a tablet or or phone without teaching them about the ecosystem just because they are in your hair or you don’t wish to be bothered. Its the equivlant of leaving yourself signed in to Amazon or the likes and blaming Amazon for purchases not authorized. The responsibility lies with the account holder.

  • Jason

    Apple has had the option to prevent unauthorized purchases, and in-app purchases required the Apple ID password, long before the issue got out of hand. It’s just that some parents didn’t understand that it was on a 15 minute timer when they decided to shill out money for an app their kid wanted, and then immediately hand the phone over. I also suspect that parents allowed their kids to know their App Store passwords, in which kids were using them to make purchases.

    I have 9 year-old and 7 year-old nieces, who both know their mom’s password, and I would tell my sister-in-law that it was absolutely her own fault that her kids bought things without her approval if it ever got to that point.

    It astounds me that parents think the issue is Apple’s because they don’t know how to manage or understand their own devices and security.

  • Grayson

    Holy crap, if someone’s kid pulls their credit card out of their purse and buys a trampoline on eBay, does visa get sued for it. If you are stupid enough to not password protect your phone’s ability to purchase app content and then hand little Billy your phone to act as a babysitter while you are busy being an irresponsible parent then you deserve to have your bank account wiped out. This is another McDonald’s “hot coffee spill” incident where there is no responsibility on the part of the victim. This is ridiculous

  • Tyrone_83

    Apple being snitches…lol

  • Mike

    Only one example of the kind of behavior from Apple which makes me loathe them.

  • gommer strike

    This isn’t unusual to be honest, it happens everywhere in all kinds of law cases. They’re accused of something, but they’ll always bring up the fact that someone else is doing it too. It doesn’t make it right, but yes it happens everywhere.