Apple facing law suit over in-app game purchases

A man from Pennsylvania has filed a suit against Apple citing “unlawful exploitation” of children. The suit is based on Apple’s in-app purchase policy. Apple did revamp the system with the release of iOS 4.3; you now need to input your iTunes password. Apple has still not done enough according to Mr Meguerian.

Minors 13 and older are permitted to open their own Apple accounts, and minors younger than 13 may purchase Game Currency by using their parents' general Apple password (no special Apple password is required to purchase Game Currency)," according to the suit, which was filed in a Northern California district court.

Mr Meguerian’s nine year old daughter ran up around $200 with in-app purchases through games like Zombie Cafe, Treasure Story and City Story. This was all prior to the changes in March; when iOS 4.3 was released. Mr Meguerian claims he was shocked to find the charges on his account. He is suing Apple for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, chasing damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Have any of our readers been affected by younger family members using their accounts for in-app purchases? Are you more careful with your iTunes password than Mr Meguerian? Let us know in the comments!

[PC Mag]

chrisoldroyd

UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

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There are 71 comments. Add yours.

Jon says:

So instead of just contacting Apple for a refund he's going to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees because he let his daughter use his iPhone without supervision? Makes sense...

garylapointe says:

He didn't just "let his daughter use his iPhone without supervision", he gave her his password. Duh?
He should just report it as theft as he didn't authorize those purchases :)

Stew says:

but far more stupidly, thinks that it's okay to give her the password so she can PURCHASE app's but thinks there should be another different password for purchasing from inside an App.
If you give out your password to your child then it's YOUR FAULT. The same as giving out your ATM pin number to a family member. Your fault if they go and do a withdrawal at an ATM!
What a cretin and just shows his stupidity even more by trying to file a class action suit against Apple for his inability to keep his password secret.
I can almost guarantee that the idiot would have given a second password to the child as well if she asked for it.

big9erfan says:

He didn't give his daughter his password, pre 4.3 the iPhone would remember your username & password if you had logged into the App Store to update apps. Eventually the connection would time out, but until that point you would be able to make in-app purchases without having to re-type your password.

Moss says:

"Apple did revamp the system with the release of iOS 4.3; you now need to input your iTunes password. Apple has still not done enough according to Mr Meguerian."

cjford78 says:

I think this is a DIY law case... this guy is an attorney focused on civil litigation. so if he wins all those legal fees go right into his own pocket... I guess thats one way to get your refund rather then ask for your money back.

The Reptile says:

Four letters - EULA. That's why you're asked to read them not just check the box and ignore them. Sorry, no suit here. And for $200? Just ask for an Apple Store credit and move on instead of wasting court time and resources.

(Copy of) Dev says:

Without commenting on this guy's case specifically, generally speaking EULAs are not worth the paper they are not printed on.
Several courts have ruled they are valid in specific circumstances, but more have ruled they are unenforceable and invalid as long as the purchaser does not see the terms until after having paid. Eventually, one of those cases will make it all the way up the appeals process. When one does, and the Supremes rule in favor of EULAs, then there would be no grounds for a suit. Until then, those four letters are not binding.
It's not exactly a lawyerly archive, but Wikipedia article on EULA's contains a summary and links to the various cases winding through the courts: http://goo.gl/LmwWv

The Reptile says:

FYI, each and every time the terms change in the iTunes Store or App Store you cannot purchase until you agree to what's in their EULA.

sahal says:

I think its immoral to download pirated stuff from net and we should restrain ourselves from such practice. For latest on iPhone 4,iPad2 iOS4.3.2, Jailbreak tutorials head to www.iphonegeeks.co Thanks

Alexander says:

That's why you don't give your passwords and credit card info to your children. Duh.

Tim says:

If this guy wins I'll be upset. If you don't want your kids downloading apps then don't give them your password! It's funny how people are soooo hard up for money these days that they look for every possible way to sue someone. This time he's suing over his bad parenting. It's the same thing when a kid surpasses their text limit and the parents end up with a $500 phone bill! They always blame the company when in reality it's their own fault. I for one am much more careful with what the kids can access. In today's world everything has some kind of parental control, parents just need to take the time to use those extra features.

tfa225 says:

Really!?!? How stupid is this guy......

Andy in the UK says:

I let my ten year old son have the password to our account and after explaining that I trust him but under no circumstances should he download any app that costs money without asking, I am now £400 lighter! Does that make me a bad parent? I'd say no, but it has enabled me to learn by a parenting mistake (none of us are perfect). It has also given me the opportunity to chastise my son and punish him for going against the ground rules (not something I relish but kids try to push boundaries so what can I say). Am I happy about it? No! Do I blame Apple? Again no!
I'm in the wrong I should never have given my kid the password; will I sue Apple? No it's my fault.
What I will say is how on earth can someone be allowed to market a game to kids and charge £39.00 per app for something which you can neither hold touch feel or do anything with? Would an adult really justify that sort of spend on something virtual?

Ethan S. says:

no. i don't want to have to keep/maintain a second password cause you (Meguerian) suck at being a parent.
Personal responsibility. Learn some.
That's just ignorant...if you give your child your online store password (or credit card or vehicle keys or whatever) then YOU are responsible for what they do with those tools...not the company. I second Patrick's comment.
My wife teaches kids from infancy to around five or six, and she's remarked that tests that gauge the children's sense of responsibility are returning results that my grandfather's generation would consider backwards. I'm worried about what things like this are teaching our kids about morality, ethics, and personal responsibility.
Apple already has a system in place for this and it's called "parental controls". If you're not using them and you're trusting your child with your account password, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Frivolous lawsuit FTL.
Don't give your kids the password to an account you linked a credit card to, duh! What's next, sue the phone company because you gave your kid a phone and the kid called Botswana for 30 hours?
Also, "Meguerian was not aware of these charges until he received his monthly credit card bill" - Apple sends purchase receipts about once a week to the email account associated with the iTunes account. The man should have known about it before the monthly credit card bill.
You know, I'm really tired of these parents who think it is some one else's responsibility to monitor what their children do.
You don't like the way iTunes works, DON'T LET YOUR CHILDREN ACCESS IT WITHOUT YOUR SUPERVISION. It's that simple.
So someone who is too irresponsible to keep his account info away from his daughter is trying to get money. Hmmm...
It's like trying to sue the credit card company or your purse/wallet designer for making it so that children can easily access it.
Or let's sue our banks or pen companies, because they allow other people to use your account funds without your consent.
I fail to see the point here. If the parents are too stupid to keep their iTunes password a secret, how are they smart enough not to give this supposed "second password" to the kid? Will they demand a third password when they screw up and tell the kid the second one?
Do they have remedial parenting classes?
Just use iTunes gift cards only for the "Kids" iTunes account in your family. Not a credit card. Doesn't take a rocket scientist.
This is exactly why Apple created the allowance system, it lets kids have their own accounts without being able to over charge them! Plus, you give someone your username/password, you have no grounds for complaining. My guess, Apple will reimburse all the money and just laugh if they ask for more.

Ryan Moser says:

that guy's a dumbass. spank your kids.

Glenn#IM says:

I try to be nice, but he is the perfect example of bad parenting. You do not give your child anything without checking what it can do. It is his fault, not Apple or the App, but I do think the app knew this was a money making thing. It is still the father's responsibility to raise his child.

EagleyeSmith says:

Poeple have lost their minds. Be a parent and tell your child not to purchase those items w/out your permission. If I was a judge and he brought this case to me. I would hold him in contempt for wasting my time. ... Dumb.

dawggg63 says:

More than likely the child had the password because the dumba$$ had to have her set up the iTunes account and iPhone. He didn't get the receipts because he doesn't know how to use the email. He did, however, manage to find a lawyer willing to take his money instead of telling him that he has no case.

Kraytn says:

Wow... Thats all I can say

Gregory says:

I can only agree with others here. There are parental controls on the iPhone - use them. You let your child use your iPhone and let them know your password to iTunes...everything comes down to you, the parent. Sue happy Americans...where would we be without them.

mrNotiq says:

Kinda doesn't hold any ground when a child can text a phone number they see on a commercial and start a monthly bill. Your parenting failures can't be turned into million dollar lawsuits.

Darkstar says:

I got a suggestion for him!! DON'T GIVE AN iPHONE OR iPOD TO A FREAKING NINE YEAR OLD!!!
That reminds me. Why did Michael Jackson like Twenty Nine years olds????
BECAUSE THERE WERE TWENTY OF THEM!!! BWAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!

Huntaah says:

You're about as mature as Mr. Meguerian.

websyndicate says:

Apple will throw money at this to shut him up.

Shawn says:

I hope he loses and loses all his money in court fees and that the judge says to him that he is a dumb father

iPhoria says:

There is nothing new with this, it's the attitude of the scapegoat society. They always want to blame everyone but themselves, my kids a drug dealer because these teachers aren't disciplinning them or teaching them. They just find every way to avoid accepting responsibility for their own doing.

leo says:

Man people like this are one of the problems in America, i think Apple should be able to counter sue, and revoke his rights to raise children!

Crunch says:

HAHAHAHA...I thought we'd done away with frivolous lawsuits. Ok, thank you Tibp, I've had my first good laugh for today.

Thorasgar says:

Although I do not disagree that this idiot made some serious mistakes and Apple should just refund his money, I do think apps like this are designed to prey on the uneducated masses. There simply is no justification that a game targeted to children should allow racking up huge fees.
This is what my grandfather would have called taking advantage of people or "using them" and is wrong in any context.

wcarlson40 says:

Anyone that doesn't have kids shouldn't comment. In reality, your 9 year old keeps bugging you 3 times a day to download yet another new "fart" app. Eventually, you get tired of entering the password, so you just tell them the password.
An iTunes gift card won't work, because when they deplete the gift card, it starts charging your backup credit card. And you can't set up an iTunes account without a valid credit card on file.

Mobeel says:

Howabout this... When your 9 year old is begging you for the newest "fart app", you tell him/her, "NO". With your mentality, you're as bad as the father in the article.

MILE says:

Actually you can set up an iTunes account without a credit card, using only Gift Cards…! That's how many people outside the USA set up a US account…
And being tired of your kids bugging you is no excuse for giving them your password, it's still your responsibility, not Apple's…!

MaZon says:

Yes, but you can use a virtual card or prepaid card with a dollar limit as your primary CC on file.
I have a virtual card on file with a limit that is good for up to 12 months, so I don't go crazy myself

dloveprod says:

Lol @tired of them bugging you, you lose control the first time they crack you, don't give in to that.

Edco says:

I can't see how the facts, let alone common sense, could ever let this become an actual court case. I pray both prevail.

trtmazda3 says:

Yeah that's why I don't let kids play with my phone without supervision.

Stew says:

Hey Georgia, time for another poll about this subject????

Limegrntaln says:

This is why the world is so F'd up. People are freakin idiots!

FLskydiver says:

Who needs parents when we have lawyers?

infovestment says:

I agree that man is making something out of nothing. However there is unlawful exploitation when it comes to Apple now mandating that essentially everything sold after the App is installed has to go through in App purchase and any outside purchase has to be for similar or higher prices.
If a vendor made a fre app, to then sell lets say a magazine or newspaper, then he could simply calculate a price that suits his original cost calculation. It is reasonable to assuem that his margin is not that rich that is can support the 30% APple take off any in App purchase. Which means in order to make the revenue model work under the new terms, this vendor has to increase prices to stay in business. Apple covered its maintenance cost by charging the developer entry fee. Now they are greedy and want more. And because of the terms each user will have to pay more. I think that us exploitation of the fact that Apple monopolizes the App installation/approval process to the disadvantage of its customers.
This is exactly why there are laws against monopolies. Makes me wonder why the FTC has not lifted a hand thus far...

MILE says:

Putting aside the fact that your argument is factually wrong and doesn't make much sense -- what on earth does it have to do with the actual topic of this article…?!?

omfgitsjustin says:

When I was a kid, I got a light brite. Not a few hundred dollar ipad tied to a credit card.
This is just down right shameful. I hope he loses just for being so pathetic.

velkcro says:

so much for user friendly devices apple

Thismanisstupid says:

This man is the most stupid I've ever heard. He's filing a suit because he gave his daughter unsupervised iPhone image, and let her use his password.
He's spending money on money that he lost because of his own stupidity.
It's people live him that make me want to scream.

Ben says:

I disabled in app purchases.

Mister-E says:

I had a situation where I had downloaded an app for my daughter, and during the time she was using she managed to download another app herself. Luckily it only cost me $3. It seems you can download multiple times within a certain period of time, and do not have to enter the password every time you download an app. A similar thing happened to a friend of mine whose daughter did in app purchase of $20.

Shawn says:

That is what the update fixed,the moral of this story is that you shouldn't let your kids do things unsupervised where get can access the world of online,just like you would monitor what you child does on a computer

Terry Rodecker says:

No, the latest update didn't "fix" that part of the app store. The app store still remembers your credentials for 15 minutes (I believe) after you enter them. That's the very reason I reset my son's iPod after I approve any app install, whether it costs or not.

Tucker61 says:

Same happened to me. I downloaded a pp, then a few minutes later my daughter used my iPod to play tap zoo. She spent £143.00. I emailed the manufacturer and apple and within 5 days I had the money back. I never thought of suing, maybe I should have done.

Prisqua says:

I had that issue when I paid my son's xbox live membership through the console itself... (Sometimes we have to learn the hard way though he did not go overboard). But when he got an iPod Touch I made sure he had an iTunes account set up with no credit card attached to it and only used gift cards. The same goes with his xbox now, he goes and buy points/gift cards with his pocket money.

Wyatt says:

Talk about blaming someone else for your own mistakes. Both my kids have used my original iPhone for two years and has 1) never attempted to purchase anything and 2) even if they tried they are locked out of all purchases. This guy needs to learn how to secure his own device before blaming another for his kids and his self for a lack of control.

Odin says:

Hmm... when I was 10 and ran up a $40 bill from the psychic hotline, I had to do dishes for two months to pay it off. This guy is a tool.
For the curious, the psychic told me something would be coming in the mail that would have an effect.. turns out it was the phone bill.

BrindawithanI says:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That's AWESOME! You just made my day! :)

AJ says:

This guy obviously has no understanding of how our justice system works, he is never going to win.
THE INFORMATION GIVEN PROVES EVERYTHING HE DID WRONG, AND THERE'S NO CHANCE.
THE COURT IS GOING TO TELL HIM TO BE A BETTER PARENT AND TO SUPERVISE HIS KID.
SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, LEARN A LESSON. IT'S NOT WORTH SUING FOR $200 THERE'S NOTHING TO BE WON, EXCEPT MAYBE WINNING A LITTLE BIT MORE STUPIDITY AND SHALLOWNESS ON MR. Meguerians behalf.

cannedoscar74#IM says:

This case is nuts, and while Apple is far from the utopian perfection people seem to be expecting from a corporation, apple devices work and are easily usable and restricted. Both are typical 8 year old daughter and our autistic 6 year old son have their own ipod touch/ipad respectively and we have never had any problems with in itunes downloads, whether content or in app purchases for three simple reasons.
1)The first thing that was done, to every device, after the initial update & synch, was setting the restrictions. Do this on all devices, not just the kids, because kids will be kids & when the battery drains on their device they will go looking for ours.
2)The kids do not know our itunes password & we change it at regular intervals because even though we are certain we never gave they the password & take great care not to let it get seen, they are able to pick it or piece it together. And if kids want that password, they'll get it.
3)We say no. We do it easily & often by setting the restrictions to NO for downloading, installing, deleting, and in app purchases, even on our devices.
This is his, and anyone else's, choice. I know me and my wife are on the other side of strict with out devices, but it has eliminated alot of headaches (no unauthorized charges) and the kids use the devices for what we intended them for -learning & recreation. Both of the kids are doing better in school since they started using the educational apps on the ipods & our nonverbal autistic son has seen a 70% increase in his speech over the past three months since he got his own ipad.
Every product, from used cars to ipods, is buyer beware. It is the consumers responsibility to know what they are buying & what it can do.

Carlos says:

I agree wit all tha comments that are all above me about this guy Mr. Meguerian!!
But my question is y didn't anyone read tha second to last paragraph?? On tha last sentence where it states that he is suing Apple and also making them pay for his lawyers expense:
He is suing Apple for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, chasing damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
I personally still think this guy is just a good example of bad parenting. Wut he should do is pick up a book on how to be a good parent and role model so his daughter doesn't grow up and turn out like this fool.
This reminds me of tha case that goes back a couple months ago, where another "Upset Father" handed his 4-6 yr old daughter his iPhone and she dropped it on CONCRETE PAVEMENT and it cracked and shattered. He attempted to sue Apple for false statement that tha iPhone was unbreakable. That just shows how dumb pple are. I mean yes its made out of aluminosilicate glass which is said to be 30 times tougher than plastic but its GLASS!!!

DementiuS says:

Can we start suing people for being bad parents and not paying attention to what their kids do then blaming corporations for it?

Terry Rodecker says:

While I definitely agree that this is a frivolous lawsuit, I think folks here may be jumping to conclusions. I read this blog and the source story twice. I simply may be missing this but I didn't see in the story where it says he gave his password to his daughter. The app store will remember your credentials for 15 minutes (might have been longer before the update) and doesn't require you to type them in again to purchase another app.

Erik says:

This happens time and time again. Parents play a huge role in this too! Letting a 10 year old child play with a 200-800 dollar device that OBVIOUSLY doesnt know nothing but what YOU the PARENT tell the child and u want to sue apple for ur kids mistake? Give me a break!

cjford78 says:

I agree this guy dropped the parenting ball big time... that being said:
1) this was a 3rd party app... why didn't he contact that company for a refund? and for that matter why didn't he file suit on that company? if he has it's not been reported (or is under reported).
2) what do we all expect, this guy is a lawyer himself... I think he must have just been looking for some publicity for his own practice

GargoyleDC says:

How is lack of monitoring your child the fault of Apple and iTunes? Get a clue and some control of your personal information.

Moahsin says:

Lol @ those who wrote essays! ;p
Father is deffo a bit loony toonez to let it even be an issue..
Thank-You Apple for legendary creations such as iPad, MacBook Pro, iPhone. :))
Please teach this fool a lesson.
Love.

dcducks says:

Keep in mind when you use your iTunes password the system can keep store that information for a period of time. One such vendor that has a $99.99 inapp purchase on a childrens game even notes this on their website. The problem is that these companies pray on the users that are children and may not know any better once the parent authroizes the free download. With that password saved, the parent does not have the ability to enter the password again to authorize the purchase. Unfortunately, you do not know of the dangers until your account has been charged hundreds of dollars over the span of a couple of hours. Again, for the non-tech savy users it is not known that you can turn off inapp purchases until it is way too late. This is a problem that Apple should address since there are no warning when you purchase the iPod, iPad or iPhone about this practice. Should someone sue, that is up to them but Apple should police their iTune apps a little better as well. Instead of having the legal jargon in the EULA maybe have a big warning on the site that states WARNING THIS APP CONTAINS INAPP PURCHASE OPTIONS THAT RANGE FROM .99 UP TO 99.99. Ever try to read the 72 page EULA on the iPod? You cannot even make the type bigger, get out your reading glasses.

Andy in the UK says:

I let my ten year old son have the password to our account and after explaining that I trust him but under no circumstances should he download any app that costs money without asking, I am now £400 lighter! Does that make me a bad parent? I’d say no, but it has enabled me to learn by a parenting mistake (none of us are perfect). It has also given me the opportunity to chastise my son and punish him for going against the ground rules (not something I relish but kids try to push boundaries so what can I say). Am I happy about it? No! Do I blame Apple? Again no! I’m in the wrong I should never have given my kid the password; will I sue Apple? No it’s my fault.
What I will say is how on earth can someone be allowed to market a game to kids and charge £39.00 per app for something which you can neither hold touch feel or do anything with? Would an adult really justify that sort of spend on something virtual? It's wrong really. If it's aimed at kids why charge so much and how much profit is there in them?
I'm annoyed with myself, but I've put it down to experience and written the money off. My kid now knows that responsibility and trust are lost a lot easier than gained.

Sachiko Sokorai says:

This is identical to cee-lo's No ones going to love you! shot for shot, except I prefer to play cee-los video to rihannas song, a much better fit, and they are the same length.

Lianne Hidvegi says:

A good psychic will manage to tell you about any obstacles and problems that could arise in the future, this will enable you to make a conscious decision that may assist you to smooth out the problems.

NTD says:

Regardless of parenting issues, these corporations are basically exploiting children to make mone, and Apple endorses it.

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