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Parents beware: Game app rip-offs

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Nila Sweeney

So-called “free” iTunes games – some targeted toward children – are costing parents hundreds of dollars.
 
Ann-Marie Woodgate was shocked to find a $60 charge on her credit card statement for “250 gems from Restaurant Story” – a game that was free to install, but charges users for in-app content.
In the game, users can design their own dream restaurant, choose their decorations and create tasty new dishes.


Woodgate had installed the game app on her iPad for her six-year-old son the day before.
“It really feels like a con job because it says it’s free,” she said.


She was surprised to learn that in-app purchases of gems – the game’s virtual currency which is used to buy virtual goods – did not need authorization.


Negative reviews of the game point out that there are no clear warnings to users that they are paying real dollars for the gems.


Restaurant Story is not the only free game app to charge users for in-app content. The Smurfs Village app, which is available on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, charges users $4.99 for a bucket of “Smurfberries” and up to $119 for a wagon.


Parents reported being “horrified” to find bills totaling $750 and upwards after their children bought wagons of berries to help them pass through to different levels.


Smurfs app creator Capcom Interactive posted a warning last month about the fees attached to the game after complaints from parents on the Apple forum.


Woodgate says that the saving grace of her experience with Restaurant Story was the customer service she received from iTunes after making a complaint.


Within 24 hours iTunes responded to her concerns, cancelled the charge on her credit card and gave her instructions on how to change the settings on her iPad to ensure in-app purchases could not be accidentally made in the future.
To block in-app purchases on your device, click Settings, then click General and then click Enable Restrictions button.

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