Google Fined $19 Million By FTC For Kids’ App Misuse

The companies at Silicon Valley are being increasingly held accountable by the government for not taking considerable steps in order to prevent unauthorized purchases by kids. Such purchases are often being made by kids through the mobile apps of their parents, as tablets and Smartphones have become a major acquaintance of the younger generations.

Google settled to pay a minimum of $19 million with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as a refund for such unauthorized purchases made by kids, as reported on Thursday. In the month of January, Apple had entered into an agreement for payment of $32.5 million as settlement owing to a similar reason. As stated by the commission, the payment was due to Apple’s failing to obtain informed, express content from the consumers prior to billing them with respect to in-app charges.

As determined by the FTC, the Google Play app store did not have protections so far as its billing process is concerned. This makes room for children in a number of families to go for purchases worth hundreds of dollars, pertaining to a variety of online services including games, through mobile apps. Google agreed to further develop its application shopping system with increased number of notifications as well as enhanced password screening so as to confirm buyer consent. Moreover, Google will also make refund of the total money to consumers who have faced any kind of unfair billing, as reported by an FTC news release.

In the year 2012, payment security gaps were also identified in Google Play. This included failure to send warning to users regarding a window of half an hour between times when there was requirement for a password. This allowed kids to indulge in limitless number of purchases that could be utilized in online games, as stated by the commission.

According to Edith Ramirez, FTC Chairwoman, since an increasing number of Americans are adopting mobile technology, it is very importance to remind companies the fact that time-tested consumer protections are still in use. This also includes the provision that no charge should be placed upon consumers for purchases that had not been authorized by them.

This case of Google is the third of its kind, with respect to the addressing of unauthorized app purchases as pursued by the commission. One instance of unauthorized charges as depicted in Apple’s settlement with the commission includes a case wherein the daughter of a consumer spent $2,600 through the app “Tap Pet Hotel”.

The commission has also charged Amazon for allegedly letting children making millions of dollars with respect to unauthorized charges online. In the month of July, a complaint was filed against Amazon by the FTC, asking for refunds for billing parents unfairly. Amazon was also directed to add protections to its Appstore in order to guarantee buyers’ consent. However, Amazon sent across a letter in July expressing its refusal to pay the fine and instead opted to go for a legal fight.

Delara Derakhshani, who is the Consumers Union’s policy counsel, said that the convenience of mobile payment methods make them exciting but government agencies should ensure safeguards within the billing procedure.