Parents Beware, Kids May Inadvertently Rack Up Charges by Use of Game In-App Purchases

By on Dec 9, 2010 at 11:56 am

The next time you hand over your trusted iPhone or iPad to keep the little one entertained, keep in mind that some children’s games come with in-app stores. According to a report by CBS 8, The Smurfs’ Village, a free game released last month for the iPhone, became the highest-grossing app in the App Store. How, you may ask? Well, buying a wheelbarrow of Smurfberries for $60 is a good start.

This is what happened to Kelly Rummelhart when her 4-year-old son inadvertently used the game’s in-app store purchasing one bushel and 11 buckets of Smurfberries for $66.88. Parents, including Rummelhart, are in an uproar over the The Smurfs’ Village and other similar games’ in-app stores, with some calling it a “scam.”

Capcom Entertainment, developer of The Smurfs’ Village, once it realized what was happening, added a warning about the option of in-app purchases to the game’s description in the App Store and have stated that it will also include the warning to the game, as part of an update. Needless to say, this may not be enough, depending on the child’s age and whether they understand the message in front of them.

Apple, who introduced the “in-app purchases” option last year, gave refunds to the parents who were contacted for this story, but were quick to defend their system, pointing out how the password system and in-app restrictions work.

To turn off in-app purchases from your device:

  • Go to Settings
  • Hit the General button
  • Restrictions option
  • Go down to Allowed Content and turn the slider to OFF for In-App Purchases

Butterworth, although content with the refund, is still convinced the game is a “scam.”

[CBS8]

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  • Butterworth is an idiot. It’s not a scam and if they didn’t use the available parental controls to keep their child from buying stuff inside an app. Using that logic, the app store is a scam

    • Hagar

      It is a scam – $66 for some “Smurfberries”? Come on, just because parents can’t keep track of every setting in every electronic gadget, track what they’re watching on TV, monitor what they’re browsing on the Internet, review ratings on the games they’re playing, etc, etc, etc…does NOT mean it’s okay to take advantage of peoples’ inability to keep up with all of these things on an ongoing basis. It’s exactly the same as negative billing and it’s designed to see what these companies can get away with. Nobody in their right mind would knowingly buy a game if they were told there are items within the game that cost more than a game is worth in the first place. It is unquestionably a scam!!!

      • Dude did you even read the article? I have the game and a bucket of smurf berries does not cost $66. The child brought 11 buckets and a bushel. Within that bucket you get multiple bunches of smurf berries. Its not a scam, the parent was supposed to enable parental controls to prevent the child from doing that. Like I said if you call that a scam than the iTunes App store is a scam too

  • Kat

    So Tron, did *you* read Hagar’s comments? The point is that there was no warning to the parent that their *child* would be solicited to spend money while playing a supposedly free game. What’s the demographic Smurfs appeal to? Not the consumer-savvy adult, for sure. Building a paid feature within a free app that is played by young children, knowing that the paid features could be inadvertently activated, may not be a ‘scam’ but it sure is skirting close to the border. It’s exactly what Hagar said–not illegal, but not exactly ethical, either. I play World of Warcraft. I happily pay for in-game items, but the process requires that I go to their website, log into their store using my account, and produce my credit card information. I’m an adult and i can do that. Expecting a 4-year-old to know what’s going on is a bit much.