The Federal Trade Commission announced today Google has agreed to pay out, at least, $19 million in refunds to consumers for unauthorized in-app charges made by children playing mobile apps from the Google Play app store.
The FTC complaint claimed Google broke the law by violating the FTC Act’s prohibition on “unfair” commercial practices, allowing consumers to be charged for in-app purchases made by children without proper consent from the Google Play account holder.
The FTC said this is the third case involving unauthorized in-app charges by children, referencing a July complaint against Amazon.com, and a complaint against Apple Inc. earlier this year that resulted in Apple paying out $32.5 million in refunds to consumers.
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.
In 2011, purchases within Google Play apps could be made without entering a password. By 2012, Google introduced a pop-up window within the apps that required an account holder’s password before billing, but it came with a 30-minute window of time where purchases could be made without the password needing to be re-entered.
The FTC reports thousands of consumers have filed complaints, with some claiming they were billed hundreds of dollars worth of in-app charges after their children had unknowingly made purchases while playing on mom or dad’s mobile device.
Not only will Google be refunding the unauthorized charges, it has agreed to change its billing practices to make sure express, informed consent is made by the Google Play account holder before charges are incurred.