It's time for the insanity to come to an end and for Apple And Microsoft to put spending limits in place for purchases made through iTunes and Xbox Live.
Here's two examples just from today. First, over to the Washington Post:
Over the winter break from school, 8-year-old Madison worked to dress up her simple mushroom home on the iPhone game Smurfs' Village. In doing so, she also amassed a $1,400 bill from Apple.
$99 for a "wagon of Smurfberries" or $19 for "a bucket of snowflakes" ... seriously? In a kids game? Who set these prices? Are they insane? Does anyone - other than kids - spend a Benjamin on such things?
OK, sure, it's also insane for parents to give their kids full-on access to an iTunes account that is linked to a back account or credit card, but to me there's as certain scammy quality to "wagon of Smurfberries" being on offer for $99. And on top of that, with Apple grabbing $30 from the sale of those Smurfberries (what the hell are Smurfberries anyway???) there's little incentive for Apple to do anything about it.
Here's another example, this time from WinRumors (I'm not linking to the Daily Mail):
Brendan Jordan racked up a bill of £1,082,52 on his Xbox LIVE account “without realising” the purchases were being billed to his mothers’s card. The schoolboy purchased accessories and new games for his Xbox using an Xbox LIVE account his mother had setup. Single mum-of-two, Dawn Matthews, is furious with Microsoft and blames the software giant for the purchases.
Again, putting aside the insanity of linking a credit/debit card to a kid's Xbox Live account, again to me it sounds highly irresponsible to allow hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to be spent on virtual goods.
Sure, people should be allowed to spend their money on whatever they want, so I'm not saying there should be a ban or a maximum spending ceiling, but I do feel that after a certain daily/weekly/monthly limit that the account holder should get an email or a quick call.
There's a fine line between something being lucrative, and starting to feel scammy. Apple is certainly sailing close to the wind with some of the in-app purchases it is allowing, and Microsoft could certainly do more to prevent this kind of bad publicity. Putting in place a spending limit that triggered a call or an email wouldn't harm anyone.
And it's clear that the current mechanism of relying on parental controls isn't enough.
Both companies need to get their act together.
And no, my kids DON'T have access to a credit/debit card fed iTunes/Xbox Live accounts!