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Posted at 6:09 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Apple iPhone game maker changes in-app disclosure after parents' ire

By Cecilia Kang

dolphinplay.jpg


The makers of Dolphin Play, an iPhone game we recently wrote about, is changing some of its practices to make it more clear to parents and children about actual purchases that can be made while playing.

And Dolphin Play is urging Apple to change some of its practices to avoid surprise charges from the iTunes store.

The move comes after The Post's story on iTunes in-app purchases, in which items such as $99 barrels of Smurfberries in the Capcom Interactive game Smurfs Village were bought by children. In some cases, children knew their parents' passwords to buy the items. Other children bought items during a 15-minute window that doesn't require password re-entry by users.

Lawmakers questioned the practice and asked the Federal Trade Commission to review whether the games sufficiently informed users that the purchases of childrens games were real or if they were deceptive in marketing.

In a blog, St. Cloud, Minn.-based Recharge Studios said it would lower purchase prices. For $99, app users can buy a 10-pack of 2,400 Dolphin coins, for example, to speed up the game and make it easier to advance levels. The company didn't specify changes it plans to make.

And it said it would put the following disclosure in the iTunes store for users to see upon purchase of the app:

NOTICE: ALTHOUGH THIS APPLICATION “APP”, IS FREE TO DOWNLOAD AND PLAY, EXTRA CREDITS AVAILABLE FOR GAME PLAY MAY REQUIRE YOU TO MAKE A MONEY PAYMENT TO US. PAYMENTS ARE HANDLED BY APPLE AND ARE CHARGED TO YOUR ITUNES ACCOUNT. IF YOU MADE AN INADVERTENT PURCHASE INSTRUCTIONS FOR OBTAINING A REFUND FROM APPLE CAN BE FOUND HERE WWW.RECHARGESTUDIOS.COM/APPLERETURNPROCESS. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS PLEASE CONTACT US AT SUPPORT@RECHARGESTUDIOS.COM.

The company said that it has also asked Apple to change its in-app buying system so that users can't get caught in a 15-minute window where they don't need to re-enter passwords to buy items on apps. And the company asked in a letter to Apple that the Cupertino, Calif., firm make it clearer how to get refunds for accidental purchases.

“We have received a limited number of user complaints, and are aware that our game was recently mentioned in a Washington Post article critical of Apple’s in application purchase process (“in-app purchase”)," the company wrote in its blog. "Indeed, in-app purchases need only be used by customers who want to accelerate play. Regardless, we are very concerned about the possibility of inadvertent or accidental purchases, especially by children."

By Cecilia Kang  | February 17, 2011; 6:09 PM ET
Categories:  Apple  
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Comments

"Regardless, we are very concerned about the possibility of inadvertent or accidental purchases, especially by children"

Dear Recharge Studios, no one who is very concerned about the possibility of inadvertent or accidental purchases, especially by children would design and market this game. You insult the intelligence of everyone who reads your blog post by stating otherwise. Your actions speak far, far louder than your sad attempt to deny what you so obviously are. If you were truly concerned about children, you would completely end the practice of selling nothing for real money. You wouldn't simply add another warning that your game rips children off.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | February 18, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I am sorry, but the only reason for charging $99, $9, or even just $.99 to buy credits and accelerate game play is to rake in money from unsuspecting people. A more ethical approach would be to either charge a fixed fee to purchase the game or charge a fee per hour played. If I am going to play a game for one hour, it doesn't cost them any more money for me to play with or without credits.

Posted by: mikebecvar | February 18, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

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