This year, mobile app revenues are set to make in excess of £20bn, according to research firm Garner. Is that money being contributed to by in-app purchases your child is making without your awareness?

Why is it happening?
It may seem strange that a four or five year old child can amass a small fortune worth of purchases when they don’t have the email password  or understanding about buying on your tablet. And this is precisely why the Office of Fair Trading investigated the issue for five months, investigating 38 games.

It found that children are being unfairly pressurised into buying extra features on free smartphone and iPad games and that some developers could be breaking the law in the way they sell such in-app purchases.

Looking at games thay believed were likely to appeal to children, Ofsted has set eight principles it wants the industry to follow, warning that failure to do so could mean fines.

Online games for children have grown in popularity with the rise of smartphones and tablets, and many of the most popular free games come with the option to buy additional content, such as virtual currency, extra levels and upgraded features which can cost up to £70 a time. A My Little Pony game, for example, offers users a virtual “mountain of gems” for a real-life £69.99. You can see how the cost of these purchases could soon build up.

Parents are often unaware that their children have bought them until they receive the bill, and cases of costs running into thousands of pounds have been reported.

If you’re one of many parents who have been hit by this, and while your mobile service provider will refuse to wipe away those purchases (no matter how ridiculous they are), there are measures you can take by making a quick tweak on your mobile phone or tablet so that you don’t get burnt a again.

The Office of Fair Trading has produced a series of videos showing how to disable in-app purchases on smartphones and tablets. View it here.


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