Google to Cough Up $19M for Kids’ App Purchases

     (CN) – Google will pay no less than $19 million in refunds to customers whose children made in-app purchases from the Google Play store without their parents’ permission, the Federal Trade Commission said Friday.
     The FTC’s announcement comes after a period of public comment following Google’s agreement to settle the case this past September.
     According to the commission, when Google first launched in-app charges to its store in 2011, the tech giant billed customers for inadvertent purchases made without passwords or any form of authorization.
     Even after it implemented a password requirement, the FTC says 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.
     To settle the case, Google will give refunds for all unauthorized in-app purchases made by children, and modify its billing practices to get express consent from consumers before billing them for future purchases. Customers will be able to opt-out at any time after consenting, the FTC said.
     Google has 15 days to notify customers of the settlement, and must provide prompt refunds upon request. In the event that Google pays less than $19 million within the next year, it must write a check for the balance to the U.S. Treasury, the FTC said.
     Google has faced similar investigations in the EU, both by the European Commission and consumer watchdogs in member states.
     The company has promised EU regulators that it would stop using the word “free” when apps contain in-game purchases, and to have its default settings changed to opt-in debiting soon.

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