Developers of free children's games on Apple's iPhone have been
charging users by placing price tags on items found throughout the games, but
these in-app price tags have not been made clear to those purchasing these
games, and Democratic lawmakers are getting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) involved.
Tuesday, Rep. Edward J. Markey (Mass.) along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
and Mark Pryor (Ark.) submitted letters to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz asking
for thorough inspection
of free children's
games by companies such as Pocket Gems and Capcom Interactive.
iPhone games such as Tap Zoo by Pocket Gems and
Village by Capcom Interactive have been
labeled as free children's games, but what parents may not know upon choosing
these apps is that items within the games, such as barrels of Smurfberries in
the Smurfs' Village game, can cost up to $99 if a child selects them. The end
result is bill shock when the charges arrive.
these purchases cannot be made without a password, parents argue that it has
become too easy for children to figure it out and that safeguards
are not strong enough to stop them from purchasing the items found in
particular case, a Rockville family was charged $1,400 from Capcom Interactive
as well as Apple, who receives 30 percent of the tab. The Democratic lawmakers
see instances like this as deceptive practices on both Apple and the game
developers' parts. Markey argued that parents download applications clearly
labeled as free
games made suitable for children, and have no reason to expect that in-app
costs such as a $19 bucket of snowflakes would be apart of their child's gaming
shouldn't be able to use smurfs and snowflakes and zoos as online ATM's,
pulling money from the pockets of unsuspecting parents," said Markey.
"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."
Interactive and Pocket Gems have both placed warnings on their games in the iTunes store regarding
the additional in-app charges a user may face, but there is still some
children-related software packaging left unclear.
bigger question of business marketing practices moving forward is that policy
doesn't have time to stay up, so we need to ensure there are safeguards across
all platforms so kids are not exploited," said Kathryn Montgomery, a
professor of communications at American University and author of
"Generation Digital," who has urged the need for reforms to the
federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.