Google ordered to pay $19m in-app purchase refund

Written by David Hing

September 8, 2014 | 10:39

Tags: #consumer-rights #free-to-play #in-app-purchases

Companies: #ftc #google

Google has been ordered to refund $19m to children who accidentally bought in-app purchases by the Federal Trade Commission.

The in-app purchases were ruled as a violation on consumer law as they charge consumers what their children buy. The penalty levied on Google encompasses transactions dating back to 2011 which is when in-app purchases were first introduced to the company’s mobile service.

Google did attempt to put a barrier up between children and payment authorisation in the form of a password request, first introduced in 2012. The FTC however found this was still inadequate as the request did not state how much the in-app purchase would be and did not state that further transactions made in the next half an hour would not require another password input.

’For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives,’ said FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez. ’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 authorise.’

A very similar case over in-app purchases was also brought against Apple, which was hit by a $32.5m pay out back in January. Amazon is the next major company operating in this area on the list and currently has a case against it in progress.

Earlier this year, the European Commission recommended that Google stop using the word ‘free’ to describe free-to-play to help make the notion of in-app purchases clearer, which Google complied with.
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