By technology editor Ian Bush
A Philadelphia law firm has helped negotiate a proposed settlement with Apple for parents whose kids spent hundreds, even thousands of dollars of real money by playing in a virtual world.
Apple has made changes to its app store since it was hit with a lawsuit over what are called ‘bait apps’ – games that kids download for free but end up really costing unsuspecting parents.
“The complaint alleged two things, primarily,” says attorney Patrick Howard with Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, the proposed class co-counsel. “It wasn’t disclosed properly in the Apple app store; secondly, for a period of time, in order to make these purchases, the child didn’t need to enter a password during the first 15 minutes of game play.”
Howard says that may have left more than 20 million people with shocking bills after their kids downloaded free apps but racked up charges buying virtual game currency within the app.
“The iPhone, the iPad – they seem like the perfect babysitters: economical, always available, and you can’t have an affair with them,” said Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” But the program profiled one family whose kids maxed out their dad’s credit card after downloading the free app “Tap Fish” and then buying “food” within the program to keep their virtual pets alive – no parental password needed.
“This is an opportunity for parents to get back monies they may have expended as a result of their children playing these games,” says Howard.
If the settlement is approved by a judge, Apple will email or send postcards to potential claimants. If it’s happened in your family, you could file a claim for a $5 iTunes gift card – or a larger cash refund if your kid spent more than $30 within certain apps.