Update 5/2/18: Good News for Parents! Microsoft has recently updated the options for store purchases in an attempt to curb surprise spending. Check out the complete details here.
If you are familiar with Windows 8 and now Windows 10, you may be familiar with the Windows Marketplace or Store (as it’s called in Windows 10). Windows Store, as with other app stores ( such as Google’s Play Store or the itunes Apple App store found on smart phones, ipads and tablets) usually include within the App itself what is referred to as in-app purchases.
In-app purchases are those little nuggets of extra secret game levels you can buy and unlock from within a free game app or it’s the in-app purchases that make “unlocking” all the features of your favorite text editing app possible. Many in-app purchases hover around the $2-$5 range which isn’t much considering the price of a mac computer these days but I digress. Two dollars can quickly grow to $4 and even more than $4 dollars if you were to make the purchase, let’s say, over and over and over and over for example to unlock all the features of a particular game. This in-app purchasing may be dandy and nice in a world where in-app purchases can be disabled so no harm can be done to the bank account. But what if these little subtly hidden nuggets of App developer’s gold cannot be disabled or you learn (the hard way) the in-app purchase option (if there is one) hasn’t been disabled at all and after financial damage has been done? For example, take that one time when your child or grandchild wants to play a game or two or three on your smart phone or ipad. A quick disable of in-app purchases and there’s no need to worry yourself to sleep about unauthorized in-game purchases, right? Well, sort of.
I found out a little something different is happening or could be happening within the Windows 10 App store on desktop home computers, laptop computers, your computer and my computer all across this fine planet. Now don’t get me wrong, thus far I have enjoyed using Windows 10– all except for this one little hiccup I recently discovered in the App store. The hiccup was partly user error (meaning my fault) but it still cost real money and about $240 of it. And all over what, you ask? First, it was heartache and then it became a huge headache but for what else in material value I may never exactly know because the game where the deed was done has since been uninstalled (removed). But I did hear something about virtual shoes and $99 virtual coins or maybe the virtual shoes cost $99?
No matter, the story goes something like this. My daughter found a dress-up doll game to play. And as her parent I foolishly approved of her playing it and even watched as she played it for a short time. She was having fun and all seemed to be going well. Then I made my second mistake. I left the room. (The first mistake being my giving her my Windows 10 login pin number.) A few minutes later (ok maybe 30 minutes later) I came back to check my email and I saw I had received a purchase alert from the Microsoft store for $1.99. Then I saw another alert for $1.99, and another one for $49, another one for $99, one for $24.99 (probably the virtual shoes) and another for $49…..well you get the idea. Now to make the matter worse was there was barely enough money in the source bank account to cover even one purchase over $30! Can we all say, overdraft charge? Correction, overdraft charges.
Nevertheless, after a stressful evening spent trying to contact the correct Microsoft department to reverse the purchases (get a refund), I am happy to report the financial dam, I mean damage may be finally getting repaired minus the overdraft charges. But back to my main point. What about disabling those Windows 10 store in-app purchases? As it turns out–as of this writing–there seems to be no direct option for disabling in-app purchases in Windows 10 App Store except to completely remove all payment options associated and connected to a Microsoft account. Another method is to consider avoiding logging into Windows using a Microsoft account entirely, without proper parental monitoring of course. This means never give your login pin number or password to your child.
The method of completely removing a payment option may be the best answer, until you find the need to actually make a legitimate purchase from the App Store. Just remember that after you reconnect a payment option to make a purchase, not to forget to remove the payment option once again. This would be especially true if you are not the only one logging into your computer or you plan on allowing your child to play games from the home computer using your Microsoft Account.
Of course a more drastic approach to keep Windows 10 in-app purchases from being executed would be to avoid giving your child or grand-kid your Windows login pin number altogether. Under a Microsoft Account in Windows 10, without the pin they won’t even be able to login to your computer in the first place! (Just remember a Microsoft Account is necessary to use the App Store) Whatever you decide, keep in mind that free games are fun but unauthorized in-app purchase fees are not and can quickly become a dream gone bad.
Related interest: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/apps-and-games