Google pays $19 million to parents whose kids made off-limits in-app purchases

Google logoOn Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that Google settled a complaint in which the FTC alleged that Google unlawfully charged parents for unauthorized in-app purchases made by their children. Google will provide full refunds to customers who were charged for purchases they did not approve, with a minimum payment of $19 million in refunds.

“Google has also agreed to modify its billing practices to ensure that it obtains express, informed consent from consumers before charging them for items sold in mobile apps,” the FTC wrote in a press release.

The FTC says that since Google introduced in-app purchases in 2011, it has heard from parents whose children racked up “hundreds” of dollars in in-app purchases, which ranged from $0.99 to $200. In the first year that Google permitted in-app purchases, the company did not require any password or other verification to bill the user through the Play Store. By 2012, Google introduced a pop-up box that asked for a password and informed consumers about in-app purchases, but the pop-up didn't tell the consumer how much they were being charged, nor did it tell them that entering a password would open up a 30-minute window for kids to go crazy with in-app purchases before they had to enter the password again.

In January of this year, the FTC settled a $31.5 million deal with Apple over in-app purchases. A week after that decision, documents revealed that Apple sent a letter to the FTC pointing a finger at Google for committing the same infractions. Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell wrote to FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez, saying that a Consumer Reports article "faulted Google for allowing your 'kid to spend like a drunken sailor' for 30 minutes after an adult initially entered a password.”

Now that Apple is getting its wish, Amazon appears to be the last holdout in the FTC's campaign to end in-app purchases. The FTC filed a complaint against Amazon in July in federal court, but the company said it will fight the FTC and “defend [its] approach in court” rather than settle like Apple and Google have.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google

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