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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Google App Refunds Fail to Appease Parents

SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - Google told a federal judge last week that a brewing class action brought by a mother whose children spent $70 on in-app purchases from the Google Play store without her permission should not be certified, since the tech giant agreed to refund customers to settle a Federal Trade Commission investigation.

Last month, Google agreed to cough up no less than $19 million in refunds to customers whose children made in-app purchases without permission. The FTC had found that Google had been billing customers for inadvertent purchases made without passwords or any other form of authorization since 2011.

Even after implementing a password requirement, the FTC said that Google never told parents that entering a password would open a 30-minute window during which children could make unlimited purchases - often without parents' permission.

Google has begun notifying its customers of the settlement, which requires the company to give refunds for all unauthorized in-app purchases made by children and to modify its billing practices to get express consent from customers before charging them for future purchases.

But before the FTC intervened, New York resident Ilana Imber-Gluck slapped Google with a putative class action after discovering that one of her sons spent $70 to buy in-app currency for the 99-cent game "Run Jump Smash." Other parents have since joined the federal case, which was filed this past March in San Jose.

In a joint status report filed on Jan. 16, Google told U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte that it plans to file a request to deny class certification since Imber-Gluck won't drop her case. The company said the FTC settlement "affords plaintiffs all of the relief to which they would be entitled if they succeeded in the litigation."

Other courts have found that plaintiffs cannot proceed with a class action when they've already been offered refunds, the company added.

But Imber-Gluck and the other parents countered that the FTC settlement did not resolve their case, and said that six months' of stonewalling discovery by Google make any request to deny certification premature.

A case management conference is slated for Jan. 23.

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