Google has agreed to issue at least $19 million in refunds to consumers whose children made app purchases from its Google Play store without parental consent. The United States Federal Trade Commission says Google has agreed to the settlement to resolve a probe into “unfair” practices by billing consumers for charges by children made within kids’ apps since 2011. FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez said that in the age of 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.”
Federal officials on Thursday announced Google has agreed to settle charges and repay $19 million to consumers whose children were allegedly deceived into making mobile purchases through the Android app store. Since 2011, according to the Federal Trade Commission, Google made it too easy for children to use Android phones to buy items ranging from 99 cents to $200 in kids-oriented games without a parent’s permission. The settlement is the latest in the FTC’s three-year investigation into so-called “in-app purchases” on devices running software by Apple, Amazon and Google. The enforcement agency has said the purchases are deceptiveand particularly harmful for children. Apple agreed to a $32.5 million settlement last January. Amazon in July said it would fight similar charges brought by the FTC. The FTC has alleged that the major technology companies did not properly disclose to parents and children the ability to purchase items within games and other children’s-oriented apps. Parents have filed civil lawsuits against the companies, too, criticizing the firms and apps developers for what they describe as predatory practices that target children to buy $99 gold coins and other items within games. Children, they say, were at times able to buy those items — later billed to parents — without any safeguards such as apps store passwords. Apple has changed its practices, and Amazon has offered parental safety tools to prevent unwanted purchases.