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Apple Apps: In-App Purchases.

Iphone Apps Sunday was a relaxing day. Not a vacation day but a nice rainy summer day.
Since I bought my iPad, I have not taken much time to play games on it. So yesterday, I browsed the section of the iTunes store that feature game apps designed specifically for iPad. I started to look at the free apps thinking that if I liked one I would purchase the full version after trying the free one.

City StoryTM by TeamLava:

My first choice was City Story because it was the first one on the top 25 list.

Screen shot City Story

City Story, a TeamLava’s game, is register as a Free App on iTunes.
You can create an imaginary city. You can build roads, houses, factories, hotels etc....
To build the city you need to earn money with the factories you have. With the money you can buy new houses, parks and roads….

Screen shot City Story2
As soon as you start the game, pop-up windows ask you to buy items to build your city. You quickly move onto the next level.
I got bored quickly because I felt that the features were not really appealing. What is the point to built road if there are no cars. The fronts of the houses or buildings are backwards and you cannot turn them to face the streets. Maybe I am just to old for this game.

In-Apps Purchase:

While I started to loose my interest in the game, I was ask to buy more coins to continue. I answer yes without worry, thinking it was still part of the game. I had no idea that I was actually saying YES to buy fake money with real money. It took just one click and no other pop-ups asked for my iTunes password so I was not worried. However, I was alarmed when an iTunes pop-up thanked me for my purchase.
I continued with the game for another 5 minutes. Bored, I quit the app, erased it from my iPad library and rated it with one start.

Later that night, I checked my iTunes account and found out that I was charge $49,99 + $0,50 (Tax). What a fool, I felt! I spent real money to buy fake money.
YES, an app can charge your iTunes account while you are using it. Normally a dialog box will prompt you so your approval of the transaction is clearly understood.

You see, depending upon when you last input your Apple ID and password, iTunes may not ask for it again. In my case, I entered my password when I purchased the game 5 minutes earlier for zero dollars, iTunes did not ask again for the password even thought it was for a new transaction.
Customer Service:

Customer Service:

I called Apple. They told me: We cannot do the refund, only the developer, in this case, Team Lava the can do that. I was instructed to Contact their support team.

I sent an email to Team Lava and got a very fast answer: “We understand that you would like to get a refund. Since the purchases were made via the iTunes system, we do not have the capability to process payments or issue refunds directly. You will need to contact iTunes to process your refund, as they have the relevant billing information and transaction details.

I certainly did not plan on playing this new ping-pong game between support teams. For anyone, like me, who does not know this feature called “In-App Purchases”, I advice you to restrict them from being made. To do so, you need to go to the setting menu of the iPhone/iPod Touch or iPad device:
Settings -> General -> Restrictions. Turn OFF In-App Purchases under "Allowed Content".

This will prevent automatic charges from an app that you might not fully understand or consent to purchasing.

My Thoughts:

I know I made a mistake by clicking on the paid button to quickly. No argument there. If you read the reviews of this game you will find out that a lot of players made this same mistake. I never imagined that a third party had access to my iTunes account and could charge it.

From now, I am of course, turning off the In-App Purchases feature but I am also disconnecting my devices from the iTunes: Settings -> Store -> Sign Out.

If anyone else has had this experience - contact apple and inform them so the system can be improved.
Share your experience with us here.

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