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Monday, June 24, 2013, 06:41 am PT (09:41 am ET)

Apple lays out iOS in-app purchase settlement: full refunds and iTunes credits

Apple appears to have finalized the details of its settlement agreement for a class action suit over in-app purchases on iPhones and iPads, with the Cupertino company offering millions of dollars in refunds and iTunes credits.

in-app


A home page for the settlement program went live recently, laying out the options available for claimants in the class action suit over Apple's in-app purchase policies. That suit, filed in 2011, alleged that Apple's structure for processing in-app purchases was insufficient to stop minors from charging tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars to their parents' accounts without permission.

Under the settlement agreement, Apple will provide a single $5 iTunes Store credit to claimants in the suit or a credit "equal to the total amount of Game Currency that a minor charged to your iTunes account without your knowledge or permission within a single forty-five day period." For claimants that no longer have an active iTunes account, a cash refund is available, as is the case for those whose claims exceed $30 in total.

All United States residents are eligible for an award from the settlement, provided that, prior to May 2, 2013, they paid for an in-app purchase in a qualified app. The purchase must have been charged to their iTunes account by a minor without their knowledge or permission. The deadline to submit a claim is January 13, 2014, and the deadline to object to or opt out of the settlement is August 30, 2013.

In-app purchases stepped into the spotlight over the last few years as developers looked for a way to further monetize their apps. As the option became more popular, complaints arose that it was too easy for children to rack up sizable charges on their parents' accounts.

Apple already had some protections in place to stop minors from abusing in-app purchases, but the company was forced by the attention from several cases to modify its iTunes Store listings in order to warn users which apps featured additional paid content. The company has since stepped up its educational efforts in order to bring parents up to speed on what they can do to head off unwanted expenditures.