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Apple finally refunds family after son's £1,700 app bill

Apple has agreed to pay out after a five-year-old racked up a whopping £1,700 bill from in-app purchases.

Apple has agreed to refund a Bristol family after their son racked up a whopping £1,700 bill for in-app purchases on a game from the App Store, Eurogamer reports.

Five-year-old Danny Kitchen, from Warmley, near Bristol, told his dad he needed his passcode to get the free Zombies vs Ninja app. His father Greg handed it over, but Danny promptly set about buying all kinds of in-app extras, working his way through £1,710.43's worth in just 10 minutes.

Danny's mum Sharon only found out about his spending spree the next day, when she saw emails from iTunes itemising exactly where the money had gone. Her credit card company also got in touch to query the payments.

Danny's parents say they thought because the app was free, no money would change hands. "[Danny] kept saying it was a free game so my husband put in the passcode and handed it to him," Sharon Kitchen told news agency SWNS. "It worried me when he asked for the password but [when] I had a look at the game it said it was free so I didn't think there would be a problem."

Among Danny's purchases were items costing £69.99 a pop, such as 12 '333 keys', seven '333 ecstasy bombs', and five '9000 darts'. This on a game that says it's suitable for nine-year-olds. 

Danny himself claims he thought the in-app purchases were free.

Apple finally agreed to give the family a refund, after three days of correspondence. The Kitchens had to hand over "so much information" according to Greg, 44.

An Apple spokesperson said it was up to parents become familiar with the parental controls on devices like the iPad. "All iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod touch) have built-in parental controls that give parents and guardians the ability to restrict access to content e.g. Internet access and age-related content such as music, games, apps, TV shows, movies etc," they said.

"Parental controls also give parents and guardians the option to turn off functionality such as purchasing from iTunes and the ability to turn off in-app purchases.

"Our parents' guide to iTunes details the steps and measures parents and guardians can take to make sure younger players have access to the right content. The first thing we recommend you do is not to share your password."

You can find out more about parental controls for iOS devices here.

This morning, Sharon Kitchen told BBC Breakfast that "learning processes" were required to help stop incidents like this happening again. "Having five children, I do need to take up some learning processes to stop this happening again," she said. "Apple has been amazing and has given us step-by-step instructions."

She said the family use the iPad for all sorts of activities, including educational ones, so it was hard to monitor exactly what Danny was doing on it at all times.

Families overseas have been just as confused over in-app purchases, with Apple agreeing to pay out $100 million in the US to settle a lawsuit concerning similar cases.

Should Apple and other tech companies make it more obvious that you're spending money within an app? Does the App Store system need overhauling? And have you been stung before? Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook.

Image credit: SWNS