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Apple sued after kids run up app store bills

In the battle between the Apple corporation and the disgruntled parents of California, it looks like the moms and pops are going to score a points victory. Apple has agreed to pay compensation to parents who can show that their kids "made in-app purchases using iTunes Store or App Store credits."

The parents had sued Apple after finding out that their children had managed to find a glitch that meant they unknowingly accumulated bills from their parents’ accounts ranging from $99 to $1,500. Parents claimed that while downloading free apps, kids discovered that there was a 15-minute window where it was possible to buy as much additional content for the game as they wanted without being required to fill in a password. Kids being avaricious little monsters, they filled their boots.

Although Apple closed the loophole, a US judge decreed that "Apple may have violated consumer protection laws by inappropriately labelling these apps as free." Which should lead to Apple cranking open their huge coffers of cash and begrudgingly paying out a few bucks.

Actually some analysts suggest it could amount to more than a few bucks. Smurfs Village is an example of an enormously popular game that topped the apps store charts for months. The game itself is free, but as the disclaimer states, "charges real money for additional in-app content." The popularity of this and similar games prompted speculation that Apple could be facing claims from up to 23 million people demanding up to $100 million.

The root of the problem seems to be a marketing model whereby games producers offer the actual game for free to get kids hooked, then charge for additional games content. It looks like a practice learned from observation of street-corner drugs dealers who offer the first fix for free, then charge for repeat doses.

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