Apple & the Business of Deception

When you build a business on tricking people it usually ends badly. On the way, the journey is apparently filled with moneybags just waiting to be picked up. Otherwise I really don’t understand why Apple risked customer ire and its reputation by allowing ridiculous in-app purchases in apps aimed at kids.

You can’t blame game developers from trying. Where apps usually sell for under $10, large in-app purchases are a great way to make money from apps. I wouldn’t object so much if the process itself was transparent but Apple did not make it easy for parents to monitor the situation:

“Apple does not inform account holders that entering their password will open a 15-minute window in which children can incur unlimited charges with no further action from the account holder. In addition, according to the complaint, Apple has often presented a screen with a prompt for a parent to enter his or her password in a kids’ app without explaining to the account holder that password entry would finalize any purchase at all.” (from the FTC press release)

Apple made the process to easy for game developers to scam. What’s surprising is that they let it go on for so long. Reports of children racking up in-app purchases to the tune of thousands of dollars have been going on for years. Apple should have stopped it way before the FTC stepped in.

I can’t help thinking that if app developers had stayed within sane boundaries, say, $1 for a bucket of berries or a character, parents wouldn’t have been all that annoyed and Apple could still enjoy its part of the in-app revenue.

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