FTC Poised to Investigate iOS In-App Purchases, Apple Business Practices

Capping off a full day of Apple news, the Federal Trade Commission is effectively raining on Apple’s iPad 2 parade today by admitting that it will, indeed, probe the marketing and delivery of mobile apps that charge for products and services.

According to a report from the Washington Post, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz responded to a recent letter from US Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who suggested that the practice of “in-app purchases” – particularly those made possible via Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods – may be resulting in widespread consumer confusion, the outcome of which may be unanticipated or unwanted charges.

“We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases,” Leibowitz wrote. “Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications.”

“After the Washington Post first broke this story earlier this month, I sent the Federal Trade Commission a letter calling on the agency to investigate the issue of ‘in-app’ purchases and provide additional information about the promotion and delivery of these applications to consumers, especially with respect to children,” Congressman Markey revealed in a statement following the FTC’s response to his initial inquiry.

“What may appear in these games to be virtual coins and prizes to children result in very real costs to parents,” Markey added. “I am pleased that the FTC has responded, and as the use of mobile apps continues to increase, I will continue to actively monitor developments in this important area.”

Although Apple is no stranger to legal skirmishes and FTC probes, the Cupertino, California tech-giant has increasingly come under scrutiny for its “questionable business practices,” the most recent of which – Apple’s subscription service for publishers – is provoking a formal US-Justice Department antitrust review.