Apple alters in-app purchasing policy to protect parents’ wallets

After a number of high-profile cases in which children have run up massive bills through in-app purchases, Apple is reportedly tweaking its purchasing policy to help parents stay in control.

According to the Washington Post, iOS 4.3 will require a password to be entered separately for each individual purchase.

Previously, the program gave a 15-minute window after a password was input during which more purchases could be made without re-entering the password.

Parents had complained that this gave children the ability to make hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of purchases without realizing they were spending real money.

Games such as Smurf’s Village and Tap Zoo, played by children as young as four, were offering virtual purchases such as ‘smurfberries’ for as much as $99 per time, and at least one child is reported to have racked up over $1,000 in charges.

Two weeks ago, congressman Ed Markey wrote to Apple, expressing his concern. “I am concerned about how these applications are being promoted and delivered to consumers, particularly with respect to children, who are unlikely to understand the ramifications of in-app purchases,” he wrote.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department both promised to look into the issue; Apple has apparently decided to pre-empt an investigation with the new change in policy.