Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 16:32 iOS: Software

Child Spends US$2,500 On TikTok & Parents Blame Apple – Debate Concerning Responsibility

Ever since Apple began offering an official manner of issuing direct in-app purchases, there has been the occasional round of reporting concerning overenthusiastic in-app purchases made by minors who have absolutely no comprehension that these transactions involve actual money. This is currently the case with a matter reported in the UK, where a minor spent US$2,500 on in-app purchases, only for the parents to find out a few days later after receiving the bill by mail. The family contacted Apple and requested a refund of the amounts, which Cupertino refused to provide. Several more attempts failed before Apple eventually redirected the family to general legal paths and representation available for the parents to pursue.

Apple Support Didn't Want To Help
As per the parents' version of events, they feel completely let down by Apple's behavior. They feel that Cupertino should have recognized the unusual account activity and stopped the large number of payments, similarly to how a bank might freeze a credit or debit card in similar cases. The customer service line was also completely unable to help the couple and proved to be just as uncooperative. According to The Telegraph, the iPhone used to make the in-app purchases was a Christmas gift to the couple's youngest daughter who is "autistic" and has several "learning disabilities". The parents simply forgot to activate the parental controls in order to prevent such an occurrence – perhaps rather understandable given the usual chaos for many families surrounding the holidays, although the child's previous phone did have these controls activated. This enabled the couple's daughter to execute unlimited in-app purchases of virtual currency on TikTok without any prior authorization.

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TikTok Recognizes The Issue & Provides Support
Although Apple proved entirely unhelpful, TikTok cleared a way for the family to avoid the unexpected US$2,500 expense. Initial investigations revealed that everything occurred according to protocol, although TikTok refused to reveal what the in-app purchases were for. However, under further pressure, the provider (TikTok) issued a Terms & Conditions Violation and restricted the account "Ohhidur247" for the breach, which occurred as a result of the in-app purchases somehow being used to purchase followers for the account – which had 4 million. Upon receiving these findings, Apple finally agreed to reverse the transactions, which has to be done in the same manner as the purchase. In a message to the parents, Apple stressed the importance and presence of iOS' "Parental Control" features to protect, monitor, and restrict their minors from such avoidable occurrences.

Discussion About Complicity Of Service Providers
Of course, the matter led to yet again another flare up of debates as to who bears responsibility, and whether or not Apple and its platform, as well as providers on the platform carry any of the burden. The argument against Apple is that the company does not do enough to educate device owners about the existence and importance of Parental Controls on new devices during the setup process. Additionally, the App Store platform and its apps are designed to make quick purchases easy to execute, and are designed in a manner that makes it particularly easy to take advantage of young children. Others consider the parents to shoulder most of the responsibility and consider them to have been careless in releasing the iPhone to their daughter without the activation of Parental Controls. These parties believe the family should consider themselves lucky that they even received a refund at all. As usual, the most likely verdict stands somewhere in the middle – with both the parents, Apple, and TikTok likely having been able to do more to prevent such an occurrence in the first place.

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