Crappy iPad In-App Purchases: Frisbee® Forever Scam

First, the non-crappy part of this incident:

Apple did the right and reasonable thing and reimbursed me for a $99 scam that the iPad game Frisbee® Forever ran on my 7-year-old son.

Now, the crappy part of this scam.

A Danish company called Kiloo markets an iPad game titled Frisbee® Forever. It’s distributed for “free,” but they entrap you with in-app purchases of “star coins.” The screen where you buy these coins is very misleading, with two of the options labeled “100% FREE” and “150% FREE.”

(Image missing because of some crap Blogger pulled–deleting dozens of Crappy Software images when this blog was hosted there.)

My 7-year-old son was playing the game and he unwittingly made a purchase for $99.99! He does not know the password to my Apple account and I did not authorize this purchase. I suspect the purchase was approved because my password had been cached by my iPad and thus the purchase went right through.

I didn’t know anything about it until I glanced at an emailed invoice from Apple and I had the sticker shock of seeing this $99.99 charge! What the hell? The highest price I’d seen on an iPad game was mebbe $10. This $100 (over $100, if you count tax) charge seems waaaaaaay out of line.

The happy ending, as I noted at the start of this post, is that I contacted Apple through their email support system and they reasonably replied:

I understand that the purchase of “275.000 Star Coins” was unintentional. In five to seven business days, a credit of $108.99, plus any applicable taxes, should be posted to the credit card that appears on the receipt for that purchase. Please note that this is a one-time exception, as the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions state that all sales are final.

You can be sure I have now locked down in-app purchases so that we will not have a repeat of this situation. But I do think Apple shares some of the blame with Kiloo. In-app purchases are a relatively recent addition to iTunes and I think their implementation is crappy.

Here are two suggestion I sent to Apple that would make it less crappy:

  1. I would recommend that in-app purchase NOT be enabled by default. If the user had to specifically opt-in to in-app purchases, many of these mistakes could be avoided.
  2. If, as I’ve read, it’s true that the iPad caches one’s password for 15 minutes or more, I recommend the user be allowed to configure any password caching–perhaps turning it off entirely.
And to Kiloo, I say, Quit entrapping children with crappy, misleading in-app purchases!
Update, 6/6/2011:

A couple of friends asked about how to request that Apple review an in-app purchase. I put together a little screencast to show how, but Blogger deleted it.

As I said above, Apple has been good about canceling improper charges. The speed with which they do so leads me to think that they get a lot of such complaints. So, I must ask again: Why do they enable in-app purchases by default?

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