No, the FTC hasn’t taken on Apple over its controversial 30% fee for subscription-based apps on the App Store. But, according to Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post, it is investigating whether the feature makes it too easy for children to purchase digital goods without realizing they’re spending real money (and without their parents’ permission).
According to the report, Representative Ed Markey (D, Mass.) sent a letter to the FTC earlier this month about the issue, after reading a previous article in the Washington Post describing the trend. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz responded that they would be looking into the matter:
“We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases,” Leibowitz wrote. “Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications.”
The issue stems in part from the fact that Apple only asks for your password once every 15 minutes when you’re purchasing items using in-app purchases. Which means if you buy a game, then hand the phone to a child to play with it, they could wind up racking up the charges. Apple is rumored to be considering shortening this window.
The original Washington Post article also discusses purchases made by children who have guessed their parents’ password — which doesn’t seem like something Apple can really protect against.