Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Legality of In-App Purchases

A story broke recently about how the Federal Trade Commission is going to be investigating the legality of in-app sales to minors.

In-app purchases, which are short for "in application purchases," allow people who have already purchased one application to continue making purchases within that application.  The problem with this is that some children have their parents purchase games for them using the parents' credit cards, and then the children continue to make purchases within those games which are charged to the same credit card.  Naturally, parents can be shocked when their next credit card bill reveals hundreds or thousands of dollars in charges which they never authorized.

A letter from Congressman Edward Markey to the FTC has brought this issue up.  It's now expected that the FTC is going to investigate whether these in-app purchases are legal, or whether they amount to an unfair trade practice.

Knowing how bureaucrats operate, there will probably be a few months of expensive investigations before the FTC decides that the in-app purchases might be unfair.  Then, they will have some sort of expensive consultation as to how to regulate in-app purchases, after which thirty new positions in the FTC will be made to deal with in-app purchases.

Whether that happens or not, parents who are worried about in-app purchases by their children should simply abide by one rule:  Don't give out your credit card number to kids.  It doesn't go over well.

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