Earlier this week the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Apple would be coughing up at least $32 million for failing to properly inform parents about a 15-minute window that exists, post-password entry, through which their children could make additional purchases and rack up charges. The consent decree has been called into question by Apple and by individuals, based on precedent and based on conspiracy theories. Here's a sampling:
- Apple had already settled the case
- Charging Apple under "unfair acts or practices" in this manner was unprecedented
- Google's in-app purchase safeguards are "drunken sailor" worse and they've received zero attention from the FTC, which may or may not be because
- The new FTC chair was previously a partner at the law firm representing Google and Samsung that leaked information about the Nokia settlement.
The first one, leveled by Apple's Tim Cook in his memo, and the second one, part of the dissenting opinion by an FTC commissioner, seem legitimately odd.
The third one may offend anyone predisposed towards Apple, or with a sense of fairness. However, a case against Apple really has nothing to do with a case, or lack of a case, against Google. If the conditions are similar and the FTC is serious about addressing in-app purchases, we'll see a similar consent decree from Google and anyone else in the IAP-based market. If not, well, we'll see that too.
As to conspiracy theories, I generally find in real life, like in movies and TV shows, people simply aren't smart enough to pull them off. Given the ebook case, however, I think it would behoove the FTC, DOJ, and US regulators and legislators in general to make sure they avoid even the appearance of impropriety when it comes to Apple, and make sure they're only and always addressing the industry as a whole, and the issues that face consumers and citizens.
Check out the links above and let me know, what you think. Is Apple being unfairly targeted, are they getting what they deserve, or is this simply the price Apple has to get used to paying for being the most valuable name in technology today?