Rampant piracy of games and apps have forced developers to come up with the innovative ‘freemium’ model, wherein the app or game itself is free, however in order to move forward in the game OR to gain additional optional features, the end-user has to pay with real money, which is usually completed within the app itself. The freemium strategy is very successful, as evidenced by the fact that close to 98% of Google Play revenue comes from in-app purchases. These in-app purchases, though convenient, are also a source of major headaches for parents – especially if the children are left unsupervised. A recent issue with in-app purchases has given a major headache to Apple’s Tim Cook. The company has been at the receiving end of a consent order by the Federal Trade Commission, in consequence of which Apple has to fork over at least $32.5 million to angry parents whose kids had shopped unsupervised on the Apple App Store (including in-app purchases). Apparently Apple had failed to inform parents that whenever they approve an in-app purchase – a 15 minute window opens up, during which any other purchase can be made without the requirement of any further approvals.
The feature window was built-in into the process to facilitate and provide convenience to frequent shoppers. However, smart kids used the same opportunity window to rack up their parents bill – an Apple user’s daughter had racked up close to $2600 in the Tap Pet Hotel game from Pocket Gems, which resulted in the peeved parent complaining against Apple to the FTC. However, the problem is not contained only on iOS, it also hits too close to home, on the Google Play store. Consumer Reports’ latest investigative journalism has brought out a surprising fact to light – Apple’s 15 minutes opportunity window indeed exists on Google’s side of things as well, albeit it is not limited to 15 minutes here – instead, the duration is a full 30 minutes. Consumer Reports’ investigation has confirmed that any Android user, who completes an in-app purchase, can do further purchases, within the same app (as well as on any unrelated app on Google Play) in a 30 minute duration and Google Play will not ask for the parental permissions password for that duration.
As surprising as this revelation may seem, Google (and even Apple) have had to balance convenience with security, which is a very tricky aspect. Just so you know, Apple has had to consent to not only inform users (and parents) about any in-app purchase being made, but they also have to educate customers on in-app purchases. The challenge for Google is the same, maybe going forward Google will also develop a voluntary consent policy, but that is something only time will tell. In the meantime, do let us know whether you would allow your kid or younger sibling access to your phone or tablet for this 30 minutes after you’ve approved the purchase of those extract color bombs on Candy Crush Saga. Our comments section awaits.