Apple will not allow Canadians to use their iTunes credit or iTunes gift cards to purchase software ("apps") in the iTunes store. It can only be used to purchase music, movies or TV shows. Apple claims that "this is due to Canadian Commerce Laws that the iTunes Store must strictly enforce". The Canadian Minister of Industry, Hon. Tony Clement, believes that there are no laws which prevent this. So, where did Apple get this idea that software, games and applications may only be purchased with a credit card?
The long version for curious people:
In June of 2009, my daughter bought an iPod Touch, mostly to use for playing games. To do this, I set her up with a new iTunes account and funded it with $10 via iTunes allowance. However, she was not able to use her allowance to pay for any games and iTunes kept asking her to set up a credit card for her account. My daugher is 10 years old and does not have a credit card and I don't want to attach my credit card to her account. I want her to be able to use the allowance I've provided for her.
On July 2, 2009, I wrote this email to Apple iTunes support:
I have set up an allowance for my child's account *****@********.***. She has $20.00 in her iTunes account, but is unable to make an app store purchase - receives error msg that she must select a payment method in her account. I do not want that account to have a credit card associated with it, only the allowance amount. How can she get the app store to allow this?
And the next day, I received the following response:
Hello! How are you? Thanks for contacting iTunes Store Customer Support. My name is Corvacia. I have received your email and will be assisting you with your request. I will try everything within my scope of support to help you to resolve this issue.
I understand that your daughter is not able to purchase Apps with her allowance. I have reviewed her account and noticed that she reside in Canada. I'm sorry, but you will not be able to purchase software, games, or applications with store credit or an iTunes Gift Card in Canada. Customers residing in Canada may only purchase software, games and applications using a credit card. This is due to Canadian Commerce Laws that the iTunes Store must strictly enforce. In addition, this is why you have been asked to enter billing information even though you have store credit remaining.
Your iTunes Gift Card balance can be applied towards purchases of all other types of content on the iTunes Store.
iTunes Store Customer Support
That prompted me to do some googling around and sure enough this has been an issue for quite a while. But all I could find online was people complaining about the issue - no references to exactly what laws are being used to inconvenience Canadian consumers. So I tried to find out.
On July 5, 2009 I replied back to Apple support with the following:
Thank you for the explanation. I understand the position Apple is in. However, I relied upon this text in the iTunes help file when purchasing the allowance for my daughter's account:
"Recipients can use gift certificates and allowances toward the purchase of anything in the iTunes Store (unless you have restricted access to items with a Parental Advisory Label)."
Since it is not possible for her to purchase games with her allowance and she has no interest in purchasing music or videos, I would like to have the allowance credited back to my account or credit card. I also recommend that the text above be changed so as not to mislead other consumers about the use of iTunes allowance and store credit.
In addition, I would appreciate it if you could name the specific Canadian commerce law that Apple must enforce as I intend to pursue the issue with my government representative.
I contacted my Member of Parliament, Hon. James Rajotte and asked for his assistance to identify the Canadian commerce law that Apple is referring to. His office was unable to do so and Mr. Rajotte then contacted the Canadian Minister of Industry, Hon. Tony Clement on my behalf. Here is a copy of his letter:
In the meantime I received this helpful (sic) reply from Apple:
My name is Rashida and your issue has been escalated to me and I would be assisting you from now on.I understand that you contacted your Member of Parliament regarding the commerce law and they were unable to identify this law, that's affecting the use of iTunes Gift Card to purchase games and applications in Canada. You would like us to provide any help we can regarding this issue. Hopefully I can shed some light on this matter.
Please know that our ability to address these particular issues is limited as iTunes Store agents. Fortunately, Apple provides a page specifically for customers to submit feedback. On more than one occasion I have seen changes made within Apple solely based on customer comments. As a matter of fact, customer feedback is the driving force behind many of Apple's policies and products.
Here's a link to submit your feedback if you wish to:
I want to do everything I can to help you out. So, for your time and inconvenience this issue has caused, I have issued "2" song credits to your "*****@********.***" iTunes Store account. You can use these to buy the individual songs of your choice from the iTunes Store.
When you next sign in with this account, the song credits will appear by your account name (in the upper-right section of the iTunes Store). The next individual song you buy from the iTunes Store will use one of your song credits instead of your primary form of payment (until all credits have been used or have expired). Please note that song credits cannot be used for purchasing songs that are listed as "Album Only."
If you don't see your credits, refresh your account information by signing out and back in to the iTunes Store. You can find both "Sign Out" and "Sign In" within the pull-down "Store" menu. If you don't see this menu, you should need only download the latest version of iTunes from our website for free:
Again, I apologize for the inconvenience this issue has caused you. I hope you continue to enjoy the iTunes Store. Please let me know should you have further questions or concerns regarding iTunes Store and I'll be more than happy to help. Have a great day, Jim!
iTunes Store Customer Support
So... After I explained to Apple that my daughter didn't want to purchase music with her iTunes store credit and asking for a refund they responded by giving her more credits for music. Hmmm. OK whatever, my real concern is to figure out why Apple thinks the Government of Canada is telling them they can't sell apps to Canadians who pay with store credit instead of credit cards.
Today, September 30 2009 I received a cc of the reply from Hon. Tony Clement to my MP, and the Minister doesn't know of any law preventing Canadians from using an iTunes allowance or gift card for purchases in the app store. Copy of his letter:
So where does that leave me (and other Canadian Apple customers)? Stuck, apparently. Still, I'm not giving up yet. I've sent a brief email to Steve Jobs and I'll post an update if I receive any response.