A federal court has ruled that Amazon is responsible for charges billed to parents by their kids through in-app purchases.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) first lodged the case against Amazon back in July 2014, after the government agency had already reached settlements with both Apple and Google over the exact same issue. Many parents attach their card details to their App Store and Google Play accounts to make it easier to pay for goods contained within apps, which includes unlocking virtual content in mobile games. As a result of the complaints against Google and Apple, more than $50 million was recouped and given back to consumers.
The duo also agreed to change their billing practices to ensure that parents are made aware of the risks of passing their devices to their kids — entering their iOS password, for example, opens a 15-minute window that lets children spend at will. Apple also later changed the labelling of its apps from “Free” to “Get,” as “free” apps can still contain costly in-app purchases, though it wasn’t clear whether this move was a direct result of the FTC’s intervention.
Completing the triumvirate of tech juggernauts fingered for in-app surprise charges was Amazon, which elected to fight the FTC rather than reach a settlement. So the FTC sued to get a formal judgement and now says the judge agreed that the ecommerce giant’s warnings on in-app charges contained within “free” apps was insufficient.
“We are pleased the federal judge found Amazon liable for unfairly billing consumers for unauthorized in-app purchases by children,” said FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez, in a press release. “We look forward to making a case for full refunds to consumers as a result of Amazon’s actions.”
There has yet to be a full ruling on how much Amazon will have to refund; both the FTC and Amazon have been asked to provide further information.
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