Rep. Markey urges FTC to probe Apple's in-app purchases
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) on Tuesday urged the Federal Trade Commission to review the marketing practices of applications for Apple devices, saying a news report has raised concerns that some programs geared for children may not adequately inform users of potential charges.
In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Liebowtiz, the lawmaker pointed to a story by The Washington Post published Tuesday on how in-app purchases on iPad, iPod and iPhone games such as Smurfs' Village and Tap Zoo have caught some parents off guard. Children used parents' passwords to make real charges on the games. In some cases, children made purchases without even using iTunes passwords because of a 15-minute window for downloads and charges that don't require a password.
Parents said they reviewed the applications and thought they were appropriate for children. Some games are described on the iTunes store as suitable for children above the age of 4. But in the case of Madison Kay, that didn't stop her from buying $99 batches of Smurfberries on one game that eventually totaled $1,400.
"I am concerned about how these applications are being promoted and delivered to consumers, particularly with respect to children, who are unlikely to understand the ramifications of in-app purchases," Markey wrote in the letter. The FTC is the federal enforcement agency for unfair and deceptive advertising and marketing.
In a statement, Markey said the apps may be taking advantage of childrens' lack of understanding when it comes to real money and buying pretend services and products on the Web.
"Companies shouldn’t be able to use smurfs and snowflakes and zoos as online ATMs, pulling money from the pockets of unsuspecting parents," Markey said. "The use of mobile apps will continue to escalate, which is why it is critical that more is done now to examine these practices. I will continue to closely monitor this issue and look forward to the FTC's response."
Markey asked the FTC, which declined to comment for this story, if it has investigated the issue. He also encouraged the consumer protection agency to "pursue measures to provide consumers with additional information about the marketing and delivery" of the applications.
Copies of the letter were sent to Apple and Google.
Posted by: yourscreek | February 10, 2011 2:02 AM | Report abuse