It’s not Google’s, Apple’s or Microsoft’s responsibility, It’s yours – Opinion

Its not Googles, Apples or Microsofts responsibility, Its yours   Opinion

I read an article today with interest.  The shortened version is that people have been faced with huge mobile bills due to their children making in app purchases.

The report goes on to specify a particular case whereby somone was charged for 54 separate purchases and received a bill totalling some £3,200.  Fortunately for the person in question the amount was refunded and no long term damage was done.

The reported episode is not the only report of people receiving extortionate bills due to their children purchasing apps or using in app purchases and there is general outrage at the fact that Apple, Microsoft and Google don’t put into place safeguards to stop this from happening directly into the OS.

There are two points that need to be raised here.

Firstly, there are technical steps that can be taken to prevent such things from happening.  With iOS there is an option to turn off in-app purchases and within Android you can simply put the device into Airplane mode thus preventing any connections.

This however in my opinion is not the way to deal with the issue.

The fact is that the responsibility for app purchases falls completely and totally not with Apple, Google, Microsoft or Blackberry but with the bill payer.  If the bill payers children, cousins, mother in law or uncle Tom Cobley run up a huge bill then that is an can only be one persons responsibility.

As a comparison, if a child turns the central heating up to its highest setting and leaves it on all day, is it then the fault of the utility company when a huge gas bill arrives? Should British Gas build in safeguards to stop it from happening?  Of course not, it’s ridiculous to even suggest it so why are mobile phones any different?

The responsibility for ANY purchase made through an app must fall solely with the bill payer and this means that rather than live in the “It’s someone else’s fault” world that seems to have developed, parents need to take some responsibility.

If you give your iPhone, iPad, Android or whatever mobile device to your child to play with then you should know exactly what they are doing…..I’m fairly certain that any responsible parent would not give free reign of an internet browser to a 5 or 6 year old so why is a mobile device any different.

So for those people that want to lay the blame elsewhere or expect someone else to prevent your kids from spending money, step up and take some responsibility – after all, its your money that is being spent!!



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  • I couldn’t agree more. If my son plays on my phone and runs up huge charges then its my fault and my fault alone…

    … however, that doesn’t mean that the manufacturers shouldn’t try to help out. It would be nice to give parents a little more assistance by adding the iOS setting to Android and hiding such settings behind a ‘su’ type password.

  • Adster13

    When I try to download anything that isn’t free in playstore I have to put in my password. So what’s the issue. It is the parents to blame for having lapse passwords.

    • Anonymous

      It isnt always the same for in app purchases and many children dont realize that those magic berries they’re buying in the game cost real money.

  • Steve

    Airplane mode isn’t really a solution on Android, it’s a hack and one that’s easily changed by just flipping the toggle back. Alot of Games don’t work in Airplane mode either because they are ad supported. You should look into why Windows phone and iOS have solved this issue for parents but Android hasn’t done much at all.

    Your rant about British gas is awful, most thermostats are mounted above a certain height for precisely the reason mentioned. These tablets etc etc are aimed at kids almost as much as they are aimed at adults, a central heating system is not.

    • Anonymous


      You’re right about airplane mode not being a solution and iOS’s answer isn’t much better but you’ve attacked an analogy while seemingly missing the point.

      As the parent of an adaptive 5 year old I know that the height of an object isn’t really a deterrent. If they want to play with the thermostat they will, just like a cookie jar or any other “out of reach” object they desire.

      If the gas idea still doesn’t work for you then take a step back in time with me, back to the days when land lines ruled the world, international calling was stupidly expensive and phones were scattered about the house. Even back then kids had a knack for finding the number to a movie phone equivalent 2 continents away and just setting the receiver down when they’re done. It’s not practical to watch a child every second of every day and even if you try they will find ways to do things that you didn’t anticipate.

      The authors point still stands, the parent, account holder etc still has ultimate responsibility.

      I’ve taken what steps I can to limit this in our mobile devices, in-app purchases are disabled and pin protected where ever possible, accounts for app purchases are setup to use a prepaid card to limit liability, the home network blocks sites related to web ads and there is a separate wifi with a strict filter setup for devices the kids have access to and each device is locked with a PIN so that a parent has to approve access. Not perfect but a long shot but together with monitoring what they do and teaching them what they shouldn’t do it’s worked out pretty well for us.

      If it’s technologies lot in the world to make us all lazy and dependant then it’s obviously our children’s job to keep us vigilant.

      • Steve

        I don’t get how iOS answer isn’t much better? On an iPad you can disable buttons and on screen elements as well as hide specific apps and prevent purchases including in app purchases. Toggling airplane mode and hoping your kid doesn’t find it isn’t even close.

        • Anonymous

          Last time I used iOS toggling the parental controls wasnt much different from toggling airplane mode on Android.

          • Steve

            You obviously haven’t used it recently then, there are tons of options such as guided access as well as in depth parental controls, all of which can be pin protected. Airplane mode on most Android devices simply needs a swipe into the notification curtain and tap the toggle. It’s not a solution to the issue Simon has raised at all. Its a really poor, easily circumvented hack.

          • Anonymous

            Well obviously, hence the “Last time I used” it remark. I find it a bit tedious and most of the things added in the last couple of years have been pretty convoluted. They seem to be following more and more of the Android model of how not to build a UI…

            Honestly I’m pretty impressed with the Windows Phone 8 kids mode.

    • Simon Allum

      But iOS haven’t solved the problem. The article I read was about iOS specifically. All OS’s are problematic here but why should it be down to the mobile manufacturer and not the bill payer. If you want another example how about a child leaving the tap on in the bathroom…..down to the parents to supervise or the water company to come up with a way to stop it happening??

      • Steve

        The point your missing here Simon is the thermostat and taps aren’t aimed at kids, they aren’t advertised to kids and they aren’t being given to kids in schools etc etc. Yes, it’s the parents responsibility ultimately to pay the bill but I was discussing that some companies make it much easier for children to enjoy these products which is a benefit to parents and children. Guided access on the iPad and parental controls are 2 good examples. Kids should and can enjoy these products as well if the proper care and attention is taken beforehand. Thats why iPads are frequently used for children with disabilities. Kids should never be touching a thermostat or leaving a tap running which is why those analogies are poor.

        Just add another Coolsmartphone getting defensive in the comments to the list. We all know you like sharing your opinion frequently Simon, perhaps you should stop if you can’t handle the comments?

        • Simon Allum

          I’m sorry if you feel that my comment was defensive, it isn’t meant that way, I was merely adding another scenario. I welcome comments as debate is healthy and constructive criticism and or comments go a long way.

          You are correct in that kids shouldn’t touch a thermostat or leave a tap running but the fact is that on occasion they do and it is down to the parents to supervise and stop exactly as it is for them to supervise the usage of any mobile device where purchases can be made.

          It is poor form to blame the manufacturers for a complete lack of parental responsibility which is the gist of the article that I linked to.

          • Steve

            The article you linked to explains how to stop it from happening and that manufacturers should make it harder, which they should. What you’ve done is take a puff piece and used it to rant about parental responsibility. Don’t worry Simon, readers are getting used to your repeated troll posts. You must be getting bored because apple haven’t launched anything for a while so you’ve nothing to write about there.

  • Richard Horsley

    Hold on… Airplane mode? What about just setting a PIN on the Play Store? Problem solved. I’m failing to see the point in this at all.

    • If only it were that simple. I’m pretty sure a PIN on the Play Store won’t prevent IAP.

      Happy to be proven wrong though.

  • If a child turns the thermostat up too high it will be noticed pretty quickly that the house is far warmer than it should be, the cost of such an incident will be negligible.

    The potential cost from a child that gets access to a tablet (whether handed to them by the parent, or if the child “borrows” said tablet) is far, far higher.

    While a lot of app developers are responsible, and have the option to turn off in-app purchases, a lot don’t.

    Given a lot of these apps are aimed squarely at children it is clearly a cynical attempt from the developers to milk as much cash as they can from the unwary or incautious.

    Airplane mode? Most kids are clever, and can easily switch it back on. My 2 year old has done it by accident playing a Hello Kitty Memory Game. (No IAP here).

    The whole IAP model for Android is fundamentally flawed and financially dangerous.

    We wouldn’t accept such flaws if the danger was physical. Would you buy a toaster where the electrical connections were exposed and could electrocute you or your kids? No, you wouldn’t. But somehow when the danger is “just money” you think a flawed product should be forgiven and rest responsibility on parents.


    I currently rely on an App called Kid Mode, which restricts the apps the kids can access, pretty much locks them out of the rest of the tablet, and so far has been pretty effective at preventing IAP’s.

    If a 3rd party dev can do that, why can’t Google?

  • mark adams

    my 3yr old got 143,000 on temple run the other day… for him to figure out that game, that quickly, it wouldn’t take him long to get round switching airplane mode off or on, i link a debit card to my account with a zero balance, no purchases… if i need to buy anything i transfer some money over…

  • Anonymous

    Well, from what I can tell it can be completely prevented within iOS just by keeping your damn iTunes password a secret. You still have to put your password in for in-app purchases, don’t you?

    But I do agree – though I deal with this kind of thing all the time. I write software (mostly PC/Server based), but I have a method of extending subscriptions within the apps themselves. I continually get requests from companies saying that one of their employees accidentally added a chargeable feature, etc. and I almost always honour the request. It’s annoying, but I value my customers enough to put up with this, even though I put various safeguards in to prevent it.

    If I were the size of Google or Apple, it would probably be impractical, but I think for most apps this is reflected in the price. Most apps are a under £1, and almost all under £5, so you can afford for the odd duff one to slip through the net. I quite like this model, from a consumer standpoint. You occasionally spend money on something crap, but these days it’s few and far between.