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Android in-app purchases let unwitting 6-year-old spend £90 on food game

A six-year-old girl in the US has racked up a $150 bill while playing a game on her mum's Android smart phone. Do you blame the parents, or Android for not requiring a password?

A 6-year-old girl in the US has racked up a $150 bill while playing a game on her mum's Android smart phone. The charges, equivalent to £90, were incurred through in-app purchases made while playing Restaurant Story.

Restaurant Story is free to download from the Android Market. The game sees you design and build an eatery, using gems to purchase new furniture and speed up cooking times, so you can attract more punters. That's how Gordon Ramsay does it too, you know.

The gems, alas, aren't free -- for 24 of them, you'll pay around £3. Crucially, you don't need to enter a password to make the purchase, which is how the young rapscallion managed to rack up such a large bill in her quest to own the hottest virtual diner in town.

The mother, going by the user name 'Heidi', left a plaintive message on the Talk Android forum, asking whether she could get her money back: "I did not approve this purchase, she had no idea what she was doing and I didn't even know she could purchase gems without a password... I am amazed that there are no safeguards to prevent something like this! A password should be required for purchases!"

Quite, Heidi. Quite. 

It's not a new problem. In-app purchases have only been possible on the Android platform for a few weeks, but Apple's iOS has supported them since 2009, since when there's been ample opportunity for sprogs to squander their parent's cash on ludicrously expensive Smurfberries and the like.

Apple devices running iOS 4.3, released in March, now require you to enter a password when making in-app purchases -- not that this has stopped the company being slapped with a lawsuit by an angry US parent, as our sister site CNET News reported. It's surely only a matter of time before Android follows suit. 

In the past, Apple has refunded angry parents who've complained about bills incurred by their progeny. Whether Heidi and her ilk will receive a refund now that Android supports in-app purchases remains to be seen.

Has your loveable little rascal incurred crippling bills on your Android handset or iPhone? Do you believe their claims that they didn't know they were spending real money? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook wall