Apple Points The Finger On In-App Spending

Kate Patrick Contributor
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Apple ratted on Google in January after the FTC targeted the tech giant for in-app spending, but we didn’t find out about it until now.

In an email found by POLITICO, one of Apple’s lawyers notifies FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez of an article about Google participating in the same practice that got Apple in trouble.

“In-app spending” is a feature on smartphones which allows users to buy items within games without entering a password. Complications arose when parents handed smartphones to their children, who then proceeded to make purchases within apps without authorization. Several cases involved children spending thousands of dollars unwittingly on their parents’ smartphones or tablets, causing the parents to immediately turn around and blame Apple.

CEI’s Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia does not believe Apple is maliciously trying to make a buck off of unsuspecting parents in an interview with The Daily Caller. Instead, the in-app spending feature was designed to make purchases more convenient.

“The reason that Apple and Google have this setting is to make it easier to make more than one purchase in a set period of time without the annoyance of entering your password every single time,” Radia told TheDC. “It’s not fun to enter a 10-20 digit list of characters. Neither Apple nor Google are out to screw customers. That’s not what these companies are out to do, the setting was supposed to be user-friendly.”

In 2013, Apple settled a lawsuit filed by angry parents, but in January 2014, the FTC forced Apple to refund $32 million to outraged customers and pay a heavy fine. Feeling the overkill, Apple decided to outfit the FTC with some friendly advice. Hey, guess what, Google does this in-app spending feature too.

“It’s not unusual for businesses to point out when they think their rivals are breaking the law,” Radia said. “My assumption is that Apple was frustrated it had to pay a big fine for a business practice that its biggest mobile competitor also engages in. It’s an understandable frustration for folks who are running a company and are fined for breaking a federal law to see their competitors doing the same thing and getting away with it.”

According to Radia, it’s not Apple who is really to blame for the fiasco.

“If any party here bears blame, it’s the FTC for taking this fairly unreasonable approach to the mobile ecosystem,” Radia told TheDC. “It went after Apple for a fairly inappropriate reason. So now Apple thinks all the companies should be held to the same standard. If one believes in the rule of law, it’s only fair that companies be held to the same standard as their rivals.”

When asked for a statement, the FTC declined to comment to The Daily Caller.

Apple’s tattling isn’t an example of true cronyism, Radia explained, but an indicator of regulatory capitalism and it’s tight grip on the tech industry.

“It’s semantic of the broader theme in Washington of the growth of government and the role the FTC plays in the economy,” Radia said. “It creates so many opportunities for companies to engage in regulatory capitalism where they substitute lobbyists and lawyers for engineers and innovators.”

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