Apple settles lawsuit over in-app purchases by kids

Apple has settled a lawsuit over the unauthorized use of in-app purchases within games, a practice that could rack up big bills.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read

Apple has settled a lawsuit over the unauthorized use of in-app purchase in games and apps sold through the App Store.

As part of a preliminary deal that has yet to be finalized by a U.S. district court judge, Apple will pay those eligible class members a $5 iTunes gift card. Users that spent more than $30 can choose to get a cash refund, as long as they meet a handful of requirements, including filling out a form that details what apps the charges originated from.

The 2011 suitstemmed from parents who complained that it was far too easy to buy digital goods in games without the need to re-enter an Apple ID password. In practice, this meant that a parent could download a free or paid title using their password, then the child (or someone else) could proceed to make purchases without those credentials, as long as it was within a certain time period.

Apple changed that behavior as part of a system software update in March 2011, but not before some parents were hit with massive bills.

As part of the proposed settlement, Apple will be required to send notices to more than 23 million iTunes account holders who bought something in-game from one of of the "qualified apps." However the settlement filings, which were spotted by Law360 (via GigaOm), note that the affected class action size remains unclear.

The lawsuit is not to be confused with a separate legal complaint involving in-app purchases. A patent holder named Lodsys made waves in early 2011, suing companies large and small, alleging that they were infringing on its intellectual property by including the option to buy things within the software. Apple joined that suit in April of last year in an effort to defend those developing on its platform.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the settlement deal.