Watchdog orders Google to reimburse $19m spent by children

The US Federal Trade Commission has ordered Google to reimburse more than $19m to parents whose children have racked up large bills from in-app purchases on popular games, after it was found to have failed to put in place measures to prevent unauthorised payments.

In a damning investigation the FTC found that Google had dismissed cases where children purchased add-ons for games via their parent’s phones and tablets as ‘friendly fraud’ and ‘family fraud’ despite billing customers without their consent.

FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez said: “For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives. As more Americans embrace mobile technology, it’s vital to remind companies that time-tested consumer protections still apply, including that consumers should not be charged for purchases they did not authorise.

“Google also did not inform consumers that entering the password opened up a 30-minute window in which a password was no longer required, allowing children to rack up unlimited charges during that time.”

Following the ruling Google will also update its terms and conditions to ensure that express informed consent is available from consumers in advance of being billed.

The settlement affects customers of the Google Play store and comes in the wake of a similar finding against Apple earlier in the year.

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