Saturday, November 15, 2014

In-app Purchases Restore Missing, Strange Gray Icons and Billed for Apps I Didn't Authorize: Faith Restored in Apple

I am not an unconditional Apple fan but I do think they have some nice products and a good customer service. The last few weeks I got many problems which could easily have changed my mind about this company...

First thing first: I bought the ipad2 when it went out (was sold out in Norway so I had to buy it online). My son who is now 4 has never really realized that electronic devices can be fragile and has stepped on it, jumped on it, thrown it accross the room. And despite this, this ipad is still working.

So when I was in New York last month and thought it was time for us to get a new tablet, I decided to go for the new ipad air 2. I was pretty confident that I could restore things I wanted myself and didn't looked into any kind of restore services.

1st problem: in-app purchases missing

How on earth was I supposed to transfer my in-app purchases from my old ipad to the new one? Purchased apps are available on itunes store but things I bought inside an app? Looked on the net, saw I was not alone to ask me this question. Apple help page was not very clear with the only conclusion that if there wasn't a restore button I had to contact the developer. The developer answer was even less clear. I had to use the same iTunes username otherwise they couldn't help me. I *was* using the same username, so how could I get the in-apps purchases again?

No more answers from the developer so I took contact with Apple support. The first few answers were general and did not help. The latest include this sentence:"you are free to redownload the non-consumable content without incurring any additional charges." It was then a "leap of faith test.

Solution to 1st problem: you just need to ignore the message saying you will be billed

After I got the message "Confirm Your In-App Purchase / Do you want to buy xxx for yyyy?" I pressed "Buy" and got the message: "You've already purchased this. Would you like to get it again for free?", ie you just have to ignore the billing confirmation message.

Had I known this from the beginning, I wouldn't have wasted my time in mails to the developer of the app and to the itunes support. Believe both should have known this and informed this of it and most importantly, Apple should have FIRST checked whether the purchase had been made or not and only IF NOT asked for a confirmation that the user was ready to spend money on it.

2nd problem: strange grey app icons

A few days after, I had another issue where I couldn't download apps anymore. Any try would lead to a strange grey app icon with circles and lines and nothing more would happen. Would happen for any app and removing it and downloading it again would not help

In the picture above, you can see this for two apps.

Solution to 2nd problem leading to 3rd problem

This is where things got a bit tricky. I just thought this was a refreshing bug of some sort. I restarted the ipad entirely (pressing the on/off button long enough for the powering off screen to display and swiping the turn-off-slide).

No more strange icons but suddenly out of nowhere tenth of apps appeared on the dashboard and started downloading. The screen before I turned it off only had 2 grey-icon-apps. Not 10-15 of them. And when my ipad restarted, it asked my itunes login/password and I gave it as I wanted these two apps. Not to allow 10-15 apps to suddenly appear out of nowhere.

Supposedly those new apps had been in some sort of downloading queue. The problem here?

3rd problem: billed for apps I didn't authorized

Some of those apps were not free! I DID NOT authorize these purchases. I entered my login/password when asked at the ipad start but was never asked to confirm apps purchases. Not before the icon issue, not after, ...

I did not know some of these apps charged me for anything (as I was still confident I would be asked for my password to purchase anything or at least get a purchase confirmation message). The day after, I got 3 mails, each with a receipt for apps purchases. A total of 9 non-free apps.

Solution to the 3rd problem... almost

In the mail, I had the option to "report a problem" with the purchase of the apps. I pressed it and quite quickly came into contact with Apple support by chat. After the usual "apps do not get there by themselves, are you sure you didn't buy them? You did not forget about it?", I got told I would be refunded but that for security purposes my account would be closed and that I would need to talk to the security support of Apple (by telephone) to get it open again.

No problem (I thought). I arranged a time where Apple would call me. Strangely, the call came late (wasn't sure it would come at all and was afraid at one point that the system was not working and that I was just wasting my time waiting for them). When I finally receive the call, I was put in a queue... Not sure why you need to agree on a time then. And this was not over. When I got someone on the line, I was told that this person could not unlock my account and had to contact someone else and there was a 10 minute queue for this. And no, I was not able to simply deal with it themselves, I had to be on the line... So I decided to call back the day after as I was in a rush that day.

3rd problem bis

Still following? Remember my account had been closed for security purposes. Well it did not help much as the day after, I got again a receipt for apps I had apparently purchase (with a locked account). By the way, the first mails came at 06:41, the mail the day after came at 06:47. When I make a purchase in itunes, I generally get the mail in the following 5 minutes. And I don't download apps at 06 in the morning...

This time, the problem was worse. Without an itunes account, I was unable to get in touch with the support by chat and simply had to wait for the support call I had planed (and where they would have to call someone else).

Solution to the 3rd problem: Apple reopening my account and refunding me

Fortunately, this call was pretty good. The guy on the phone told me he was sorry about what was happening, that the new purchases had probably happened when my account was not closed yet and just had not been processed. This makes sense IT-wise but I have a hard time believing it. 

For a clearer view of the time:
- Day X 06:41 I am billed for 9 apps through 3 mails. I am sleeping and don't notice it
- Day X about 09:00 I see the mails and contact Apple support. They refund me and close my account
- Day X+1 06:47 I am billed for 2 apps 

So basically, someone is supposed to have downloaded these two apps between 06:41 and 09:00. Very unlikely.

Anyway, the support takes the action to reimburse me for these two apps and after some security questions they reopen my account.

Remaining problems?

The only minor thing remaining is that those paid apps are still in my icloud. I don't want them as I didn't pay for them and would like to remove them but Apple does not give this possibility to users. Would probably contact them again about it but for now, I have spent enough time with mails, chats, and on the phone.


After all this, many would jump to the conclusion that Apple is bad but if you look at it objectively, I will get my money back, it wasn't that hard either (there was a button on the mail to complain about a purchase, the chat was easy to access, etc...), especially the first time when I still had an itunes account. And the support did apologize for it.

About in-app purchases, they are easy to restore, you just need to know that you have to ignore these scary "purchase confirmation" messages.

Hope this helped for those of you with these problems.

NB: The info in this blog is for information purpose only. I am not working for Apple and won't be able to reimburse you in case of any Apple charges.

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