Google will settle charges and repay $19 million to consumers whose children were allegedly deceived into making mobile purchases through the Android app store, according to Federal officials.
The Federal Trade Commission filed suit, alleging that since 2011, Google “made it too easy for children to use Android phones to buy items ranging from 99 cents to $200 in kids-oriented games without a parent’s permission.”
According to a story on the lawsuit at the Washington Post, “The settlement is the latest in the FTC’s three-year investigation into so-called “in-app purchases” on devices running software by Apple, Amazon and Google. The enforcement agency has said the purchases are deceptive and particularly harmful for children. Apple agreed to a $32.5 million settlement last January. Amazon in July said it would fight similar charges brought by the FTC.”
Apparently, safeguards were few.
“The FTC has alleged that the major technology companies did not properly disclose to parents and children the ability to purchase items within games and other children’s-oriented apps. Parents have filed civil lawsuits against the companies, too, criticizing the firms and apps developers for what they describe as predatory practices that target children to buy $99 gold coins and other items within games,” according to the Washington Post. “Children, they say, were at times able to buy those items — later billed to parents — without any safeguards such as apps store passwords. Apple has changed its practices, and Amazon has offered parental safety tools to prevent unwanted purchases.”
“For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a release. “As more Americans embrace mobile technology, it’s vital to remind companies that time-tested consumer protections still apply, including that consumers should not be charged for purchases they did not authorize.”
Google has agreed to full refunds for unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children and to start getting “express, informed consent” from consumers for in-app purchases. All Android customers who have made in-app charges will soon hear from Google about how they can get refunds, said the company.