Parents Sue Apple for In-App and In-Game Purchases Made by Kids

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A group of California parents unhappy with Apple over money they didn't know their children were spending in games has now gotten the go-ahead from a California judge to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the company.

The suit revolves around "game currencies" - real money used within games to buy coins or other in-game tools - that the parents claim children purchased without their knowledge.

According to the suit, "children were able to purchase 'game currencies' without their parents' knowledge or authorization while playing game applications, provided by Apple and advertised as free." The parents also claim the games are designed to be "highly addictive," with specific reference to the Smurf Village app as a "bait-and-switch" type game in which the app is free, but the 1,000 in-app credits offered cost $59.

The suit was filed by Garen Meguerian on behalf of a number of others in April 2011. Additional groups of parents have filed similar suits in the state and they were then consolidated into one large class-action suit.

Prior to early 2011, Apple let users buy game currency up to 15 times without re-entering a password in the game. The parents claim they were unaware that purchases could be made without re-entering the password, which resulted in children charging the parents' accounts in amounts ranging from $99.99 to $338.72.

Apple did fix the issue in early 2011, but the parents claim the company was in the wrong and that it still makes it too easy for kids to buy without parent permission.

Apple has argued that the issue should be dismissed as the in-app purchases were stated in the Terms & Conditions signed by the parents before purchasing the app, "thus making the individuals purchases not voidable." However, Judge Edward Davila ruled against Apple's request to dismiss the case. That doesn't mean the parents have prevailed, but it does mean that both Apple and the parents will continue to pay for this fight.