NEW YORK (AP) — Apple Inc. has changed how purchases inside iPhone and iPad games are authorized after customers complained that their kids were racking up hundreds of dollars worth of charges.
The issue was that after a user entered his or her iTunes password on a device, the device didn't prompt for the password again for 15 minutes. Any purchases, whether in the iTunes store or inside kid-friendly games such as "The Smurf's Village," went through without a new password prompt.
This meant that parents who handed over their iPhones or iPads to their kids were sometimes shocked by large purchases of "Smurfberries" and other virtual bling.
An Associated Press story in December highlighted the phenomenon. A subsequent story in The Washington Post prompted Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to ask the Federal Trade Commission to look into the issue.
With the iOS 4.3 software update, Apple devices have one 15-minute password-free timer for the App Store and iTunes, and a separate one for in-app purchases, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said.
Muller said she couldn't say why Apple made the change.
Free, child-friendly games that allow in-app purchases are still on the list of top-grossing apps in the App Store. At the top is "Tap Zoo," and "Smurfs' Village" is No. 6. "Smurfberries" and similar items in other games allow players to speed up what is otherwise very slow processes, such growing crops for the Smurfs.
The parents the AP talked to for the December story had received refunds from Apple for the inadvertent purchases.
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