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Angry Parents Sue Google Over In-App Purchases

Are your kids draining your bank account by downloading so-called “free” apps that enable unlimited in-game purchases? Join the club. Or, better yet, the class-action suit.

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Source: Flickr

Last week, attorneys in the Northern District of California filed suit against Google, alleging that the Google Play Store’s in-app purchase policies allowed the company to “pocket millions of dollars from such … transactions with minors and without authorization of their parents.”

Though initial in-app purchases require a password in Google Play apps, the authorization is good for 30 minutes, allowing kids to make further purchases with reckless abandon after (presumably) a parent signs into the store, the suit alleges. Purchases are automatically billed to the credit card associated with the parent’s Google Play account.

In January, Apple settled a suit brought by the FTC, agreeing to refund at least $32.5 million to consumers who had their iTunes pockets picked by their kids. Last year, Apple also settled a similar class-action suit brought by angry parents.

Starting in March 2011, Apple has required you to enter a passcode before authorizing any in-app purchase. However, if you want to turn it off completely, try the following.

How to turn off in-app purchases in iOS
Go into the Settings app on your i-device and tap the General tab. Tap Restrictions. In the next screen, tap Enable Restrictions. You’ll be prompted to enter (or create) a four-digit passcode.

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Scroll down the list of apps until you reach In-App Purchases, and slide the toggle to the left (or off).

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How to protect your wallet in Android
In Android, there’s no way to completely turn off in-app purchases. All you can do is ensure that a password is required before purchases are authorized.

Launch the Play Store on your device and tap the menu icon in the upper right of the screen. Tap Settings. Under User Controls, make sure Use password to restrict purchases has a checkmark next to it. If not, tap it and enter your Google account password to enable it.

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The next time you or your progeny attempt to buy something inside an app, a dialog box will pop up demanding your password. However, if you enter the password and your sneaky kid clicks the Never ask me again checkbox before hitting Confirm, then password verification is nullified. And even if she doesn’t do that, she’ll still have 30 minutes in which to run up charges on your account.

Hence the class-action lawsuit.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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