FTC investigating Apple in-app payments

Apple is being investigated by the FTC over its policy on in-app purchases, particularly when it comes to use by children.

Horror stories about kids racking up huge bills on 'free' games which require the purchase of additional items, coins or tokens have been around for as long as those 'freemiuim' games, but now the Federal Trade Commission has cast its gaze in the direction of Cupertino.

Despite having several levels of parental control in place, it turns out that some kids have discovered that if you grab the iPad within 15 minutes of mummy making an iTunes purchase, you don't have to re-enter the password in order to make in-app purchases in the likes of Smurf's Village, an iOS game in which one eight-year-old recently racked up a $1400 bill for her unwitting parents.

Some parents have even reported that their children have guessed their passwords in order to make fast and loose with their credit cards.

The same parents of these half-pint hackers are then crying foul on Apple and insisting that Apple gives them refunds because their little darlings didn't understand that the money they were spending so freely was 'real'.

Apple is caught between a rock an a hard place on this one. If you require a password to be entered every time you make a purchase or even download a free app using your iTunes account, most users will be up in arms. But continuing to allow kids to rack up huge bills obviously isn't an option.

There is one simple solution, however. Ban every single game available for iOS which is obviously aimed at children which allows in-app purchases.

Quite frankly, any developer who publishes a title aimed at tots - which Smurf Village quite patently is - which requires an eight-year-old to pay up to £100 for in-game items, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Capcom... hang your head.