Google to pay $19 million to settle complaint over in-app purchases

Google has agreed to pay at least $19 million to settle complaints over in-app purchases made on its Android app store, in a case similar to ones the Federal Trade Commission brought against Amazon and recently settled with Apple.

The settlement will cover in-app purchases made since 2011, when they were first introduced on Google Play. The FTC called the way Google Play handled in-app pruchases a violation of the FTC Act’s prohibition on unfair commercial practices; it received complaints from many consumers alleging their children had made hundreds of dollars in unauthorized charges.

The FTC’s complaint said Google billed these customers for their children’s purchases without obtaining authorization from the account holder. Google Play introduced a password check sometime in 2012, but it, too, was unsatisfactory to the FTC as it did not contain any information about the charge. It also failed to inform consumers that entering the password created a 30-minute window in which no password would be necessary to make subsequent purchases.

The settlement will require Google to contact all consumers who made an in-app charge over Google Play and inform them of the refund process for unauthorized in-app charges. If less than $19 million is paid over the yearlong refund process, Google will remit the balance of that to the FTC.

In April, Apple began the process of reimbursing its customers a combined $32.5 million over in-app purchases, in a settlement reached in 2013 along similar grounds.

But in July, Amazon said it would not settle with the FTC, asserting that its app store clearly notes which games feature in-app purchases, and that it offers appropriate controls to block unauthorized transactions.

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