SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - Apple can settle claims that it failed to get parental consent before letting minors buy game currency for so-called free apps, a federal judge ruled.
The settlement provides all class members with a minimum $5 iTunes store credit or cash payment for those who no longer have an iTunes account, according to court documents.
Several consumers had brought federal class actions, which were consolidated in the Northern District of California, after they received iTunes bills for purchases their children had made while using applications on their Apple devices.
Garn Meguerian filed the first of the complaints in April 2011, claiming that Apple made "millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains" by selling game currency to children via so-called "free" apps.
Apple requires a password to download applications and buy game currency through its devices and retail outlets, but a user has 15 minutes to buy stuff once the password is entered before being prompted again, according to Meguerian's complaint
"This practice enabled minors to buy Game Currency, in one click sums of $99.99 or more, without entering a password, causing Apple to pocket millions of dollars from such Game Currency transactions with minors and without the authorization of their parents, whose credit cards or PayPal accounts are automatically charged for the purchases," according to the complaint.
U.S. District Judge Edward Davila granted the proposed settlement preliminary approval on Thursday, calling it fair, and saying the minimum $5 payout was "adequate, if not exceptional."
Consumers who want a refund are required under the settlement to submit a claim form attesting that they paid for game currency without authorizing the charges, and that they have not already received a refund.
Alternatively class members can elect to receive an iTunes store credit or a cash refund in an amount equal to the aggregate total of all qualified game currency charges within a single 45-day period for which they did not already receive a refund, according to court documents.
The settlement also allows class members to request funds for qualified charges that occurred after the 45-day period in a claim for aggregate relief if they can explain how a minor made the purchases in question.
Under the terms of the settlement, Apple agreed to post settlement documents in English and Spanish on a website maintained exclusively for the settlement. It will also send the documents by email or regular mail at no charge to class members who call a toll-free number set up for the settlement.
Apple will additionally email settlement documents to every person who paid for one or more game currency purchase during the relevant period. The company will send the documents by regular mail to any such person whose email address is no longer valid, according to court documents.
Davila ordered any class members seeking to be excluded from the settlement to send a request saying so by July 31.
The judge set a hearing for final approval of the settlement for Oct. 18.