The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Thursday that Google has agreed to settle charges and pay $19 million to consumers whose children were deceived into making Android app purchases on the Google Play store over the last 3 years.
According to the FTC, Google has made it far too easy for children to make purchases on the Google Play Store without their parent’s permission, and for the most part, without much more than a few clicks. These purchases range anywhere from 99 cents to $200.00.
The settlement is one of many investigations that the FTC have been working on in regards to “in-app purchases”. The FTC claims that these purchases are very deceptive and are harmful particularly to children. Last January, Apple agreed to pay $32.5 million. Amazon has indicated that they are fighting similar charges brought by the FTC and has made no indication that they would agree to settle.
In a release, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said, “For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives. 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.”
It wasn’t until late 2012 that Google started requiring purchases on the Google Play store to require a password confirmation. This came at the insistence of what has been reported as tens of thousands of complaints by parents, who had racked up credit card bills without their knowledge or consent.
VISA and MasterCard have indicated that cardholders are only responsible for charges made to their credit card with their permission.
According to the FTC, Google, Amazon, and Apple currently face several class action lawsuits and heavy criticism over in-app purchases being far too easy for children to make without a parent’s knowledge or permission.
Meanwhile, parents continue to complain and dispute tens of thousands of dollars worth of credit card bills, as very little has changed with regards to the online policies. The practices are being called “friendly fraud” by credit card companies, who have also noted concern with the large amount of disputes being made by parents.
Google said in a statement that it has worked to change its in-app purchases. “We’re glad to put this matter behind us so we can focus on creating more ways for people to enjoy all the entertainment they love,” Google said.
Google has agreed to fully refund unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children and get “express, informed consent” from consumers for in-app purchases. The company said all Android customers who have made in-app charges will hear from Google about how they can get refunds.