‘Smurfs’ Village’ app adds warnings of real costs

By Associated Press
Posted Dec. 20, 2010 at 1:50 p.m.

The publisher of the popular “The Smurfs’ Village” game for the iPhone and iPad has added a warning that virtual items such as “Smurfberries” cost real money –  as much as $100 with just two taps on the screen.

An Associated Press story this month revealed how easy it is for kids to buy such virtual items and have them billed to their parents without their knowledge. Like many other free games, “Smurfs’ Village” makes money by selling the virtual goods to advance play.

Capcom Entertainment Inc. updated the game Sunday. When it starts up for the first time, a pop-up warns about the option to purchase Smurfberries and the fact that charges come out of owners’ iTunes account, which gets billed to a credit card.

However, Capcom has also made it easier to make a large purchase of Smurfberries in one go. Previously, the highest two-tap Smurfberries purchase option was a “wheelbarrow” for $59.99. Now it’s a “wagon” for $99.99.

“Smurf’s Village” is the third-highest grossing game for the iPad. Other top-grossing “free” games for the iPhone and iPad, including “Tap Zoo” and “Bakery Story,” have $99.99 in-game purchase options and lack upfront warnings.

Capcom has said that the big-ticket purchase options are useful to adult “power players” who want to cultivate their Smurf villages. But parents have complained about a loophole in the in-app purchase process that children exploit.

Usually, the purchases require the owner of the device to enter his or her iTunes password. But there is no password challenge if the owner has entered the password in the last 15 minutes, for any reason. That means that if a user enters the password for a purchase or a free app upgrade, then hands the phone or iPad over to a kid, the child will not be stopped by a password prompt.

Capcom and other game publishers have no control over the 15-minute password-free period, which is set by Apple.

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One comment:

  1. SmurfRIPOFF Dec. 29, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    THIS IS CONSUMER FRAUD, IS WHAT IT IS!!! I fought long and hard to get this credit to my account this morning. Searched all over Google and here is how you do it. First of all, iTunes has NO live customer service reps (how convenient).

    Call the Apple number: 1-800-275-2273. When you hear the recording come on, press 70. Say that you need tech support for iTunes. You will be asked what kind of computer you are using. You will then need your iPod serial number. You will get a live Apple customer service rep on the line who can do a live chat with iTunes while you’re on the phone. You cannot talk to iTunes yourself; Apple will do it for you. I will say that Apple customer service reps are AWESOME! Do not be angry with them – this is not their ap. The Apple people are there to help you.

    A couple of key things helped me get a refund. First of all, a simple “warning” in the beginning of an app is not sufficient when there is no password required for minor children to purchase bushels of Smurfberries. Minors cannot charge on credit cards; you must be 18. It’s consumer fraud. They told me it was my account and I am responsible for the charges. I told them they knew FULL WELL that 40-year-olds are not playing the Smurf game and that it is for children, so it is deceptive and fraudulent. I told my Apple rep to tell the guy at iTunes that if they can show me anywhere “inside” their FREE app where my child could enter a password on a password protected account to purchase Smurfberries that I would pay them double. I also told them that if they lined up 1,000 7-year-olds in court and asked each of them in front of a judge and jury if they knew they were spending “real money” and not Smurf money if they would purchase it. I emphasized again it’s consumer fraud because there is no password required and children can’t charge on credit cards. Refund issued. Have a nice day.