It wasn’t too long ago that Apple landed themselves in a spot of trouble over in-app purchases, something which they were quick to correct and even offered refunds to parents whose kids might have gone on a wild spending spree due to the lack of controls in place. Now the iTunes App Store isn’t the only app store that allows in-app purchases. Other app stores, such as the Google Play Store, allows that too, but oddly enough nothing has been brought up against Google yet. However it turns out that Apple could have pointed the Federal Trade Commission Google’s way, according to an email that surfaced recently, which was reportedly sent by Apple’s general counsel, Bruce Sewell. The email was actually sent earlier this year, but the folks at POLITICO managed to get their hands on it through a Freedom of Information Act request. The email was sent from Sewell to FTC Chairwoman, Edith Ramirez, pointing her towards an article that similarly criticized Google for the lack of controls over in-app purchases in their own app store.
In January, Apple agreed to a $32.5 million deal with the Federal Trade Commission over Apple’s handling of in-app purchases. A recent FOIA request from Politico revealed that barely a week after that decision, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell tried to throw Google under the bus, writing to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Democratic Commissioner Julie Brill and pointing out Google’s similar behavior. In-app purchases have been a hot issue for consumer protection advocates of late. In Apple’s case specifically, when parents authorized the purchase of an app, Apple allowed a 15-minute window before asking the customer for his or her password again. This allowed kids to rack up sometimes enormous bills without their parents’ knowledge or permission. Although Apple began to make changes to its policy before the FTC action, the trade commission still ruled that Apple had to offer refunds to angry parents, and if those refunds were less than $32.5 million, Apple had to pay the remainder to the FTC. But Apple was hardly the only offender. For a time, Google allowed a 30-minute window for a phone or tablet user to make purchases before asking for the password again. But the company revised its policies in light of the extra FTC attention and updated the Play Store so that users can now require a password entry every time they make a purchase. Google also permits restricted user accounts on tablets so that parents can keep kids from accessing the Play Store entirely. Still, Sewell referred Ramirez and Brill to a Consumer Reports article that “faulted Google for allowing your ‘kid to spend like a drunken sailor’ for 30 minutes after an adult initially entered a password,” Politico wrote. Apple felt that it shouldn’t be the only company to pay for its former business practice.