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5 tips to protect yourself from unauthorized in-app purchases

February 25, 2014 — OTTAWA, ON — Competition Bureau

The Competition Bureau is pleased to offer 5 tips to protect consumers, particularly parents and their children, against unauthorized or accidental ‘in-app’ purchases, which could result in significant charges to consumers, without their knowledge and permission. In-app purchases involve charges to obtain additional digital content or enhancements as part of an existing application (app).

1. Check for in-app purchases

Check what apps you or your child are downloading, and any extra costs that may be associated with a particular app. Even if an app is advertised as "free", it may offer in-app purchases. Familiarize yourself with the app by reviewing the app’s description, age rating and user reviews — is there any indication of in-app purchases? After downloading an app, monitor your child while they play the game, as you normally would for any online activity.

2. Protect your password

Be careful who you share your password or PIN with — even if it is to download a "free" app. Entering your password or PIN can trigger a purchase, resulting in a charge to your credit card or other payment method that is linked to your app store account. For parents of older children, consider educating them how to avoid incurring unauthorized or accidental purchases.

3. Turn off in-app purchases

Use the settings on your mobile device to turn off the ability to make in-app purchases, or to require entry of a password for each in-app purchase. Read the user’s manual for your device to set up parental controls to prevent unauthorized or accidental in-app purchases. On certain platforms, you may want to consider setting up an individual allowance for your children so they cannot spend more than what you authorized.

4. Turn on airplane mode

Use the airplane mode on your mobile device — it will allow your child to use apps, but not make any in-app purchases (or download any apps).

5. Be aware that your mobile device is a payment platform

View your mobile device as a payment mechanism similar to a credit card. Ask yourself the question: Would I give my credit card to my young child at the toy store without any oversight or supervision? Monitor your bills for charges from app stores, and ensure you authorized all charges.

The Bureau encourages anyone who may have been misled by representations made in an app to contact us or submit a complaint online.

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