One bite of free Apple game apps and kids may be hooked into buying online currency, ammunition and other tools to play the games, racking up substantial bills for Mom and Dad, or so says a class action suit filed Monday in federal court.
Twilah Monroe of McCalester, Oklahoma downloaded the free game, “Fishies,” onto her iPhone for her twin 5-year-old daughters and handed one of them the phone to play.
Three days later Monroe discovered the Fishies had hooked her children. Her online account had been dinged $99.99 for a “chest of 1,250 pearls,” game currency that Apple refused to refund, according to the lawsuit.
This is not the first class action by Philadelphia lawyer Jonathan Shub over Apple sales to minors. In mid-April he filed another case in the Northern District of California federal court. That suit by Phoenixville, Pennsylvania dad Garen Meguerian discovered that his 9-year-old racked up $200 in charges playing three “free” games including “Zombie Café.”
The Federal Trade Commission began looking at Apple’s charging practices for games earlier this year after parents complained they were hit with huge bills on game apps like Smurfs’ Village, where children can buy barrels of “Smurfberries” to help play the game.
Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, told the FTC in January that he heard from one parent who got $1,000 bill for purchases by a child from an Apple App store during game play.
Faced with the FTC nosing around, Apple implemented a new policy in March to require a password when a buyer tries to purchase something within a game, after the application is downloaded.
The latest lawsuit contends that Apple allows minors 13 years and older to open their own Apple accounts and purchase game currency and those younger than 13 may use their parents’ general Apple password to access the account.
The most recent suit accuses Apple of violation of California’s unfair competition law, unfair business practices and the state’s consumer protection law.
Case: Monroe v. Apple, Inc., C11-2394 PSG (N. Dist. of Calif.)