The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been investigating similar problems with other providers, and Google isn’t the first to decide to return money to parents who felt duped. Earlier in the year, Apple agreed to a settlement of 32.5 million and after paying up, they drew attention to Google and Amazon who have similar systems in place.
Now that Google has decided to put things right, the spotlight will likely be shifted toward Amazon, which has up to this point, refused to settle with the FTC. Amazon has indicated it’s willing to fight this in court, but with both Apple and Google now settling, they may want to reconsider.
The settlement is a win for the FTC, who has been investigating the issue for three years. In a press release on the matter, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez says, “For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives. 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.”
The settlement by Apple, and now Google, is great news for parents too. Hundreds have made complaints about the unexpected charges showing up on their accounts, but they have had to pay the price with little luck getting the charges overturned when they had never been authorized. Children don’t always understand the true value of money, and virtual environments tend to make it even more confusing. The combination means, without any safeguards in place, even well-behaved kids could easily agree to purchase things without permission or true knowledge of the consequences of their actions.
Another area of concern with these charges is the gaming industry, and it’s likely that the FTC will start to focus on in-game purchase processes in the near future. But for now, Google has done the right thing and acknowledged this with a statement saying they have worked on the issues around in app purchasing and are “glad to put this matter behind us.”
(Photo courtesy of Johan Larsson)