Archive for February 7, 2013

Apple Settles Lawsuit with Parents Who Got Smurfed in the Smurf From Expensive In-App Purchases

The village of the damned/smurfed

We’ve all been there before.  We’re stuck with a kid who can’t stop whining about being bored, needing food, or craving the love and discipline of an adult.  So to get them to shut up we hand them our iphone/ ipod/whatever electronic device and tell them to play something so we can shut them up.  We get a few hours a of peace, and then suffer from a few hours of abject horror when we get our monthly bill. We see that little Johnny spent $600 on smurf berries, and that a Steve Jobs clone is coming to punch our teeth down your throat if we don’t pay up.

That story may sound a bit farfetched, but if anything it isn’t insane enough to show the problem some parents were having with their kids finding and using “hidden” in-app purchases.  In 2011 Stephanie Kay was taken aback when she received a bill for $1400 from Apple in her inbox, and was presumably even more shocked when she realized that the bill wasn’t a bizarre prank.  Her 8 year old daughter was playing the Capcom game Smurfs’ Village, a game that her mother was able to download for free.  Kay wasn’t aware that the manufacturer made the game free, but chose to make certain items in the game cost money.  These weren’t little multi-use items that cost under $1.99, this game was happily charging its users $99 for a wagon of smurfberries and $19 for a freaking bucket of snowflakes.

It isn’t exactly news that there are free to play games that charge their users for special in game content, but people were particularly outraged that a game that’s marketed to children could have so many covertly hidden and expensive items.  Kay wasn’t the only parent who had lost hundreds of dollars to the smurfs and other cute shovelware games; there were tons of parents that were unknowingly letting their kids play games with absurdly expensive items.  Capcom eventually added a disclaimer to the Smurfs’ Village game:

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.

But by the time they had posted it, it was already too late for some people.

Take my money Apple, I was only using it to make it rain on stockphoto models anyway

Since most apps didn’t require users to re-enter passwords to make in-game purchases, in 2011 rightfully pissed-off parents filled a lawsuit against Apple for making it too easy for kids to purchase in game goods.  Apple essentially changed their in-app purchasing systems in March of 2011, but by then most of the damage was already done.  In a surprising turn of events Apple ended up settling the lawsuit, but the U.S. district court judge who ruled the case is still ironing out the details.

Essentially users who spent more than $30 in in-app purchases can receive a cash refund after jumping through some hoops, and Apple will be required to notify the 23 million+ iTunes account holders who purchased content from certain games about the settlement.  Some people can expect to receive a $5 iTunes gift card for their troubles because Apple feels the need to give their loyal customers one final middle finger.


85th Academy Awards by the Numbers

It’s infographic time!



The Economic State of the Union

It’s freedom time baby

Tonight Barack Obama will be giving his first State of the Union speech since his re-election in 2012, and people have been spending a lot of time trying to anticipate what the president will say about certain issues.  There are so many big issues that need to be addressed tonight, but it seems like the bulk of Obama’s speech will focus on the economy.

Rutgers recently did a thoroughly depressing survey on jobs, and they found that 80% of Americans (that’s a PDF file link) have either lost a job or have had a loved one lose a job in the past few years.  In just the past week three major world events occurred that could heavily affect the stock market, and right now the US is looking for some economic reassurance and TLC from the Barack-Star.

The impending address has caused a lot of people to wonder if Obama has been able to keep any of the big promises he has made since he was elected.  Obama may have utterly failed to keep his promises about the environment and prosecuting big bankers, but at least he’s been able to make things slightly less impossible for small business owners.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act that was designed to legalize crowd funding and lift restrictions on how small businesses can raise money was passed in April, but it’s still too soon to see if it has had any major impact.  The HIRE Act has been very popular with small businesses because of the credits and social security tax breaks businesses receive for hiring employees.  And depending on whom you ask, the jury is still out on whether or not the Affordable Health Care act will cause financial problems for small business owners.


US Department of Justice Files Suit Against S&P For Being Full of Terrible People

The global financial crisis happened in the fall of 2008 and in the beginning of 2013 we’re still looking for people to place the blame on.  Big banks have been sued for laughably small amounts and some companies have kicked out CEOs, but the most surprising 2008 crisis call out happened this past Monday.

Standard & Poor’s (that S&P thing media personalities occasionally mention when they’re giving out terrible investment advice) is a pillar of the American financial sector.  S&P has been around since 1860, they’re largest credit rating firm in the country, and they publish financial research and analysis on the stock market that people read like a fiscal holy book.

They’re also a division on The McGraw Hill Companies AKA: The people behind the worst text books ever

On Monday the US Justice Department filed civil fraud charges against the company, claiming that the company mislead the country by giving glowing appraisals to unstable securities and down played the true risk of the looming credit crisis that managed to screw up the global economy.  According to the government S&P misled investors by claiming their ratings and financial information was “uninfluenced by any conflict of interest”, when they pretty much were unabashedly promoting companies they held a financial stake in.  They claim that S&P’s desire to generate more money and earn more market share caused the company to grossly ignore the risks of shoddy investments from about 2004-2007.

Standard and Poor’s immediately went on damage control after the news broke and claimed that they totally knew that the US was gunning for them and they denied any wrong doing.  Their confidence of their innocence didn’t seem to help much since their stock plunged by a little over 20% less than 24 hours after the news became public.  The news of S&P’s impending suit was so bad that somehow the shares for Moody’s Corp, S&P’s main rival, to fall by 10.7%.

S&P’s most trumpeted innocence claim is that other credit rating companies managed to screw up as badly as they did.  Every mortgage-backed bond that the US Department of Justice review had received the same credit rating S&P gave from different rating agencies.  It’s also likely that they’ll defend their terrible mistakes by claiming their first amendment rights since their ratings are really their “opinions” and that they’re protected under the Constitution.  Luckily two federal judges have already claimed that any 1st amendment defense would be complete and utter crap.