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Our daughter has her own iPad that she uses with an Apple ID configured as a child account. Her app store purchases require authorisation from either myself or my wife. All three of us are in the same Family Sharing group.

Our daughter has recently started playing a new game, and wanted to purchase virtual "coins" from within the app. As this was an in-app purchase, it required authorisation. Things went something like this:

  • Daughter chose to purchase 1000 coins from within the app (cost: £0.99)
  • App asked for authentication via Touch ID
  • Daughter authenticated with Touch ID
  • App displayed dialog saying that the purchase needed authorisation
  • Dialog button was tapped to request authorisation
  • My wife and I both received a request to authorise the purchase
  • I provided my Apple ID credentials to authorise the purchase
  • Back on my daughter's iPad, a message indicated that the purchase had been approved
  • Another message then appeared indicating that something had gone wrong (I can't remember the exact wording, but it was pretty terse, something along the lines of "An error occurred"!)

Stupidly, figuring it was some kind of transient error, I tried a couple more times, the last time even trying to authorise the purchase directly on the iPad rather than via my phone. None of these attempts worked.

I've since found out that there are different types of in-app purchases, and that these coins are classed as "consumables" and cannot be transferred to other Apple accounts in the Family Sharing group. I suspect that if I installed the game on my phone I would now have 3000 coins waiting for me, but that doesn't help my daughter.

I have the following questions:

  1. Should Apple allow people to authorise (ie. pay for) in-app purchases for child accounts, if those in-app purchases cannot be used by the intended recipient (the child)? At no point in the process was I warned that this would be the outcome.

  2. Is there any possibility of a refund? Although only £2.97 out of pocket, I've still purchased something I have no intention of using on my own device. I don't even have the game installed on my own device.

  3. If a refund is possible, who would I contact to obtain one: Apple or the app publisher?

  4. Is there any way I can purchase the coins for my daughter's installation of the game?

In general I feel Family Sharing works well, but this seems like an edge case that isn't handled at all well by iOS.

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Although they're related, you've actually asked a number of questions there. I'll deal with each of these briefly:

Question 1: This question is specifically off-topic. We don't answer questions like Why does Apple... or Should Apple... etc.

Question 2: Yes, it is possible you could get a refund. This will usually be in the form of a credit on your account.

Question 3: You need to contact Apple, not the App publisher.

Question 4: I suspect you have a few options. Since you have to contact Apple, I would just ask them what the best option would be. However, one option is to change the account details on the iPad temporarily so that it's your account that's logged into the App Store. Then try to make the purchase using your account. (You may need to delete the app and redownload it using your account). Once you've got the coins, log out of the App Store with your account and log back in with your daughter's. (NOTE: If you had to delete and reinstall the app for it to be associated with your account, this does mean you'd have to log back into your account again if/when she makes future purchases).

  • I contacted Apple and got a refund/credit. I'm still not sure if this is an edge case in how iOS handles the intersection of Ask To Buy and Family Sharing for in-app purchases, or whether it was just a failure to implement it properly on behalf of the app developer. – Steven Rands Oct 26 '17 at 13:32

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