How to prevent unauthorised spending on in-app purchases on your iPhone

Apple has sent out email to US customers offering them a refund for certain in-app purchases. The email is asking parents to review their App Store purchases, and includes steps and links on how to submit a refund request for unauthorised purchases by their kids.

All refund requests has to reach Apple by April 15, 2015. This is part of an agreement between Apple and US Federal Trade Commission following a settlement of a class-action lawsuit over unauthorised purchases within apps.

Apps that offered in-app purchases are labelled on the app’s description on the iTunes App Store. This apparently is not sufficient. The problem lies with how iOS handle App Store purchases.

To make a purchase, App Store will prompt you for your Apple ID password. This initial sign-in would allow 15 minutes of additional purchases without further authorisation needed. Thats the ‘loopholes’ for the kids and the source of the bulk of the ‘unauthorised’ in-app purchases complaints. Most of the victims argued that Apple should have informed them about this 15 minutes window.

If you have kids at home, you can setup Restrictions to prevent unauthorised in-app purchases. On Settings app, go to General > Restrictions. Tap “Enable Restrictions” and enter a passcode. Then tap to switch off “In-App Purchases”.

How to prevent unauthorised spending on in-app purchases on your iPhone

Once the restriction is turn on, the next time when you try to make an in-app purchase, iOS will simply inform you that “In-app purchases are not allowed”. To take one more step to make it full-proof when you handle over your iPhone to your kids, you can switch off “Installing Apps” and “Deleting Apps” in the Restrictions settings.

Restriction access to “In-app purchases” is in fact recommended even if you’re not sharing your iPhone with kids. This is especially true if you play a lot of free games, many of which are full of baits for you to make that in-app purchases.