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'Smurfs' Village' iOS in-app purchases reportedly catch Apple's ire

Apple has reportedly had "strong words" with publisher Capcom about in-app purchases in the free iPhone and iPad children's game "Smurfs' Village," and is said to be considering adjusting iTunes account login times after receiving complaints from parents.

Citing a "well placed source," reported Wednesday that Apple has taken notice of "accidental" in-app purchases of Capcom's "Smurfs' Village." As of Wednesday, the free application, last updated Feb. 4, ranked third among the "Top Grossing" applications on the iPhone App Store.

"Apple has told Capcom in no uncertain terms that its freemium children's game has been causing problems with an increasingly significant number of parents who have complained that their children have been racking up large amounts of in-app purchases without their knowledge," the report said.

Capcom's game includes numerous warnings on its App Store listing. It notes that the title "charges real money for additional in-app content," and informs users that they can disable the ability to purchase such content through the device's settings.

The application's description also notes that iOS keeps users logged in for 15 minutes after entering an iTunes password to purchase content from the App Store. Additional purchases do not require re-entry of the password during the 15-minute span.

"This is a function of the iOS software and not within our control," Capcom wrote.

PocketGamer said it has heard that Apple has refunded numerous parents after their children made "accidental purchases" in the Smurfs game. It also said that Apple could be "looking to tighten up its iTunes log in procedure" and reducing the time to 5 minutes.

AppleInsider has also received a number of complaints and inquiries about Smurfs' Village, as the application has remained one of the highest grossing software options on Apple's App Store.

"I'm curious if you are aware (of) any formal complaints about the iOS game Smurfs Village?" one person wrote. "The game appears to be a scam, but has lasted surprisingly long on the App Store. It's free, but charges outrageous in-app fees to buy varying amounts of 'Smurf Berries.'"

But the game is not the first or only to upset some users due to in-app purchases. In December, users of a free Chinese-language iOS massively multiplayer online roleplaying game complained of unauthorized purchases. In those cases, it was also said that Apple refunded the money.

In-app purchases were first introduced with the release of iOS 3.0 in 2009, and were initially restricted to paid "premium" applications. Later that year, Apple granted developers the ability to offer in-app purchases in free software.

Apple takes a 30 percent cut of all purchases on the App Store, whether they are made in-app or are in the form of an up-front payment to purchase software. This week the company announced recurring subscriptions for iOS content, and also banned links to out-of-app purchases, which have allowed some content providers to bypass Apple's 30 percent cut taken from in-app transactions.