Australian Treasurer grapples with Apple Store debt

After sending his son to do chores to pay off Apple App Store purchases, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey has said that app purchases are a 'hot button issue' for parents who wind up with large bills.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

In opposition, Treasurer Joe Hockey spent much of his time warning of the the then-Labor government's "reckless spending" and comparing the national debt to the household debt, but Hockey has admitted that his own household engaged in some reckless spending in the Apple iTunes store.

In his one year in office, Treasurer Joe Hockey has extolled the virtues of Australians tightening their belts and paying down government debt, but over the summer break, household debt has been front of mind for Hockey, with his son forced into chores to pay off debt from the Apple store.

"These damn apps, where children can download [apps], if you give them your Apple password," Hockey told 3AW in Melbourne on Monday.

The treasurer, who remarked last year that there was "no way on God's earth" he would leave a debt with his children, indicated that his son had been enrolled in a work-for-the-apps scheme that would see him lifting his weight around the house in a bid to pay off the debt.

"One of my children is paying off a lot of money through chores throughout the house because they downloaded apps on the mobile device and credits," Hockey said.

"I tell you what, he's taking out the garbage, washing the cars, and a few other things as well. He's walking the dog at the moment."

Hockey said it is a "hot button issue".

"It's a big issue. It's a big issue for families."

The issue with in-app spending and controls over the ability for children to make purchases without their parents' permission has been around for several years.

In 2013, the then-Labor government decided against introducing regulation following a report from the Commonwealth Consumer Advisory Council that recommended app stores such as those operated by Apple and Google have refund windows, but noted that most stores had sufficient protections for consumers.

The US Federal Trade Commission and Apple entered an agreement in 2014 to pay back up to $32.5 million in refunds for parents who had been stung by their children's in-app purchases.

Apple said at the time that it had set out to refund any purchase that was made without parental permission.

It comes as Hockey insists that the government will push to force the Australian-earned profits of large multi-nationals like Apple to be taxed in Australia.

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