Apple Settles With The FTC Over In-App Purchases

16 January 2014

Tim Cook, via 9to5Mac:

Last year, we set out to refund any in-app purchase which may have been made without a parent’s permission. We wanted to reach every customer who might have been affected, so we sent emails to 28 million App Store customers – anyone who had made an in-app purchase in a game designed for kids. When some emails bounced, we mailed the parents postcards. In all, we received 37,000 claims and we will be reimbursing each one as promised.

A federal judge agreed with our actions as a full settlement and we felt we had made things right for everyone. Then, the FTC got involved and we faced the prospect of a second lawsuit over the very same issue.

It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy. However, the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.

The FTC’s actions sound like the behaviour of patent trolls: Make the cost of settling high enough to cash in but cheap enough to be the preferred option for the company rather than enter into a legal battle.

Whether right or wrong, Apple didn’t really have a choice here.1

1 They had already ‘lost’. The chances of them winning in the same lawsuit a second time around are slim.