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In what can safely be called a "cautionary tale" a young girl (currently attending second grade) racked up a gargantuan $1400 bill for her parents this week while playing Smurfs' Village - a Farmville-esque freemium online game published by Capcom. The item that caught her eye? Dozens of barrels of delicious, delicious smurfberries.
According to the girl's mother, Stephanie Kay, young Madison had been playing the game for a long time and didn't know that the smurfberries were a freemium item that cost actual money. So she kept buying and buying until her mother got the enormous iTunes bill.
After appealing to Apple, Kay was able to secure a one-time full refund for the purchases. She has gone on to say that she believes the Smurf's Village app is a sort of "mouse trap" designed to trick kids into billing large sums of money to their parents. The smurfberries that Madison purchased can cost up to $90 per purchase. Kay notes that the app says it is for ages 4 and up, and she says 4-year-old kids have no business buying $90 virtual goods.
There was reportedly a disclaimer from the game's publisher that popped up warning about the purchases. However, it's worth noting that a disclaimer wont work very well in a game played by 4-year-olds when an average child learns to read at ages 6-7.
On the Smurfs' Village iTunes page there is an immediate disclaimer that states: "PLEASE NOTE: Smurf Village is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings."
It's unknown whether that statement has always been on the page, or if it was added in light of this event.
What do you think? Should so-called "credit card bait" apps be banned by Apple? Or should the parents be asked to be more responsible for monitoring their kid's gaming habits?