As part of the third case by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about the unapproved phone app purchases made by Children, Google has agreed to fully refund a total of $19 million to the affected consumers. Earlier in January, the commission received $32.5 million from Apple, and a similar case is ongoing after it filed a complaint against Amazon in July.
The premise of the case against Google is that app charges were made via the Google Play app store without parental consent. According to the FTC, many consumers reported several unauthorized charges and purchases made by children on apps like Air Penguins and Ice Village that were downloaded from Google’s app store. The charges, which ranged between 99 cents and $200, led to the loss of hundreds of dollars by the consumers.
Google’s liability for the charges is also based on the fact that, when the company introduced the in-app charges for the Google Play app store in 2011, playing or downloading games from the store was not password protected. Resultantly, most children could easily buy virtual items by simply clicking on the pop up boxes within the apps. It was until 2012 that Google introduced a password protection, though this also came with a 30-minute window which did not ask for a password. By the time the company instituted a fully functioning system devoid of loopholes, many innocent consumers had lost millions of dollars.
As a way of reminding corporations that “time-tested consumer protections” should be highly respected in places like Canada and America where “smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives’, the FTC decided to file the suit against Google and other similar companies, said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.
Having won the case, Google will provide a full refund of at least $19 million within a year after the settlement is fully finalized. Unfortunately, the ruling will only apply in America, so Canadians won’t get a dime from the settlement.
Reacting to the case and the ruling, a Google spokesperson read a statement from the company saying “We’ve already made these product changes to ensure people have the best Google Play experience possible. We’re glad to put this matter behind us so we can focus on creating more ways for people to enjoy all the entertainment they love.”
This ruling will irrefutably serve as a stern warning against companies that are fond of committing similar offences.