Google has agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint alleging that the company unfairly billed consumers at least $19 million worth of unauthorized in-app purchases made by children.
The purchases were made using mobile apps downloaded form the Google Play store on Android mobile devices.
Under the terms of the settlement, Google will provide refunds to consumers who were charged for kids’ purchases without authorization of the account holder. Google also agreed to modify its billing practices to ensure it obtains express, informed consent before charging them for purchases within apps.
The complaint alleges that since 2011, Google violated the FTC Act’s prohibition on “unfair” commercial practices by billing consumers “for charges by children made within kids’ apps downloaded from the Google Play store.”
When Google first introduced in-app purchases, Google billed without requiring a password to obtain authorization. Children could incur charges by clicking boxes within apps and resulting in charges. In mid-to-late 2012, Google began presenting notification that required the user to enter a password to obtain authorization.
The settlement requires Google to contact all consumers who placed an in-app charge to inform them of the refund process for unauthorized in-app charges by children within 15 days of the order being finalized.
In January, the commission announced a similar settlement with Apple, who paid a minimum of $32.5 million for unauthorized charges by children. In July, the Commission filed a complaint against Amazon for similar practices.