In hindsight, Danny Kitchen’s parents probably should have turned off their iPad’s in-app purchases before handing the device over to their 5-year-old. The U.K. parents received a hefty bill after their son racked up about $2,550 worth of charges while playing “Zombies vs. Ninja,” a gaming app that’s free to download but charges for in-game upgrades.
According to multiple reports, Greg and Sharon Kitchen handed over their App Store password so their son could download the game while they entertained friends on Sunday.
“Danny was pestering us to let him have a go on the iPad. He kept saying it was a free game so my husband put in the passcode and handed it to him,” Sharon told The Telegraph. “It worried me when he asked for the password but I had a look at the game it said it was free so I didn’t think there would be a problem.”
Sharon did not realize that her son had accessed the game’s online store and made dozens of purchases until the next day, when she reviewed the iTunes receipts in her email.
The Kitchen’s $2,550 bill highlights a bigger problem for iPad-owning parents — the Apple device may be great for kids, but many free game apps enable users to purchase items within the game, debiting the account on file. In September, for example, 6-year-old Will Smith spent $3,244 while trying to get to level 26 of his iPad game “Tiny Monsters.”
On average, U.S. consumers spend about $14 on in-app purchases per game, reports tech blog Flurry. While many apps are free, it’s the in-app purchases that are the cash cow for developers. According to a 2012 study conducted by research firm Velositor, the average U.S. developer makes $63,885.34 on such sales — $40,403.19 of which comes from games alone.
Recently, Apple has taken action to rectify the problem, offering to refund parents for their kids’ accidental in-app purchases. The decision came after the company agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by five parents in 2011. While the final settlement figure has yet to be decided, Apple could pay an estimated $100 million to affected customers.
According to the BBC, Apple said that it will refund the full amount to the Kitchen family, who have taken away their son’s iPad privileges for the foreseeable future.