04
Sep
google-play-logo-1

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been on a crusade as of late to save the world from in-app purchases, and that's probably an okay crusade on which to be. The news has come down today that Google will be settling an FTC lawsuit by refunding about $19 million in unauthorized in-app purchases made by kids whose parents foolishly allowed them to go tapping around on their Android devices.

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The FTC says Google's Play Store/Android Market system has violated federal prohibitions on unfair commercial practices since 2011, which is when in-app purchases were added to Android. Until recently, it was possible to buy as much in-game content as you wanted with real money without inputting a password. The limited security settings were buried in the settings where most parents wouldn't have seen them. After the increased criticism of IAPs earlier this year, Google changed the way passwords work in the Play Store to make it harder for kids to spend real money without authorization.

Apple recently announced it was refunding more than $32 million in a similar settlement with the FTC. Amazon, on the other hand, is fighting the FTC's lawsuit.

[Recode]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Mystery Man

    What time is the Motorola event? I want to order my Moto 360 already ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    • Brad

      Way to post a relevant comment... There is no "event". The press is covering it and they'll have word tomorrow.

  • muhkuhap

    Wow... just because parents can't watch over their kids? WTF is wrong with parents these days..

    • Brad

      To be fair... it's one button click. Once a kid figures that out, they can drop $50 in purchases in one flash of an eye.

      That said, I'm not sure my kid would be playing with my phone to begin with, but I don't have a kid - so I probably shouldn't say.

      • muhkuhap

        Yeah, but how hard can it be to only give kids devices in airplane mode, when they aren't willing to watch..

        Anyway that young kids shouldn't be playing with such things..

      • ari_free

        Don't you know it's a basic human right to be able to play with your mom's phone?

    • Mystery Man

      Why would I sit there baby sitting my kids every move while they are playing a game? Thankfully we now have the option to require a PW for every purchase

      • Tomasz Kuczynski

        In all honestly, I can see how in app purchases are a pain and all, but I don't think Google should be responsible for the costs. There are a few "games" for toddlers that have in app purchases to unlock the next set of noises or whatever and they require internet to run - naturally it seems like they hope to make money that exact way.

      • muhkuhap

        Well, you would sit there, because you don't wand them to do inapp purchases...

        Of course it's a good thing to be able to password protect those purchases.. but as long as they were open to the kids.. parents were just stupid.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        See, you just described the problem "why would I sit there". SO THAT THE KIDS WOULDN'T DRAIN ALL YOUR MONEY WITHOUT YOUR ATTENTION

        • DanSan

          Exactly. its called parenting. Do it yourself and stop relying on a machine to do it for you and then complain when it doesn't

          • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

            I mean it's the basic fucking thing one should teach the kids - to be preserve and not go around throwing money like a billionaire, even if that doesn't go beyond the few $$ in an F2P game

          • ari_free

            The next lesson should be "if you can't afford something, don't pirate. Learn to live without it"

          • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

            Oh yeah and that too. UNLESS you intent to pirate something temporarily until you get the $$ to buy that

          • Mike Reid

            You mean I should be watching my kids like a hawk EVERY second ?

            We live in a house. Houses require lots of work. Garbage, grass cutting, vacuuming, fixing broken stuff. Then there's other stuff like doing taxes.... Isn't it obvious we can't watch EVERY second ??

            As parents, there is NO end to the million things to do, for the kids, for the house, for the cars, for our jobs. If you've never been a parent with a job, it's very hard to understand how busy we get.

            As far as IAP, Google, Apple and EVERY corporation knows that kids were doing IAPs without parents' permission. They didn't care because it made them more money.

            And 19 stinking million bucks is pocket lint to Google.

            I've taught my kids, they know, and IAPs haven't been a problem for us. Younger kids are harder though, and when IAPs first came out, many parents had no idea about the financial risk.

          • ari_free

            No you don't don't have to watch your kids every second. Because they don't have to have your phone every second.

          • DanSan

            Yes, you should be watching your kids. Do you watch them when they go in the pool or you let them do whatever they want? No because there is a high chance they could drown. Same reason you watch your kid with your tablet or phone because there is a high chance they will do something they shouldnt. Every parent knows the second you take your eye off your kid, thats when something happens.

            Throwing your phone at your kid isn't a babysitter, people need to stop treating it like one. Also maybe if parents taught their kids not to do something, they wouldn't have to watch them. Now if the kid isn't old enough to comprehend or unable to be taught then its not an appropriate toy for them in the first place.

      • ari_free

        Because you're a parent?

      • Ray

        And you are the "problem".

        Why should Google be responsible for what you should be doing... which is "parenting"?

        Why would hand your device to a child anyway, especially if it's linked to some kind of funding source (credit card for example)?

        Take some responsibility!

      • MistiXF

        You're the problem, not your kid. If your kid climbs up a tree, falls and dies, will you also say "why would I sit there"? This is why kids should not have children. It's your responsibility to look after your little one and you give your phone to a child because you want to have some time for yourself, child-free, you ... Truth hurts.

    • iblesq

      my little daughter spent about $200 in "Temple Run", while she was hiding in the wardrobe with family tablet. she wanted to get to "one million golden coins" for fun...

      i was driving home, getting notifications like "thanks for purchasing another $10 package..."

      • Big Tony

        I have a tablet kids play on too. It's put up until they get permission and I give it to them to play with them. I made sure IAP was locked out before they first started playing on it. I also monitor them. You know how many IAP they have drummed up? None. It's absolutely a parents responsibility to see that their kids don't rack up a bill. I guess when you kept getting those notifications, it never occurred to call home and find out what the heck was going on?

        • iblesq

          of cause i called home immediately, but neither my wife nor other daughters couldn't find her, because "she was hiding in the wardrobe", as i wrote above.

          i didn't know that there was a possibility for internal purchases within "Temple Run", after this incident i locked the google market, yet still - the money gone..

      • muhkuhap

        Well, it's still not google/apple/whoever to blame imho..

  • Chroniq

    That is riddiculous. Really, I completely understand the anger of all parents, who find out that dozens of their money has been taken from their accounts, because Little John or Kathy wanted more gold coins in Candy Crush Saga. But I don't believe they are right - IT IS THEIR FAULT. They give their kids unlimited access and then moan why hasn't anybody done anything, because they are completely without fault...

    • Sorian

      Sounds like the same comments in regards to students taking responsibility for their grades, not the teachers.

    • muhkuhap

      It's like I would give my child dollar notes and leave him alone in front of the chimney.. and then sue the chimney guy...

    • DanSan

      because in todays society nobody is responsible for anything they do. its always somebody elses fault and parenting is a joke of what it use to be. We have to nanny everything and everyone because nobody can assume responsibility.How about don't give a 5 year old a tablet with unlimited access to it in the first place ? Maybe a 5 year old should be outside playing and not sitting on the couch unsupervised while he stuffs his face with junk developing childhood diabetes.

      Can I go to a bar, get completely drunk and buy drinks all night. Then call up my credit card company and say I'm not responsible for the charges because I was drunk and unaware of what I was doing. Also the bartender never asked me every drink if I'm sure I want to buy this.

      • Chroniq

        Exactly my thoughts. It is never on me, always somebody else should have thought about it and then developed a way to avoid this situation in future...

        • DanSan

          Yup. People are so stupid we have to blame others for not giving us ways to protect our idiot selfs

          • ari_free

            It's a combination of stupid people and the smart people who figured out how to make money off their mistakes.

    • Stoffers

      It is Google's fault. Period.
      Even if u had set a password requirement to buy things it was bit clear that the requirement would be bypassed for 30 minutes after I enter a password.
      If I buy a game for my kid and give him the tablet to play, he'd have free reign for 30 minutes, even though I set"require a password for all purchases"

      • muhkuhap

        Yeah, and you as a parent should be aware of this, and therefore not give it to your child. So it's your, and only your! problem.

        • Stoffers

          It was not well documented at all. Most even on this site were unaware of it and we're a lot more informed than the average consumer.
          Require a password for all purchases should only man one thing.

          • ari_free

            So don't give anything to your kid unless you know how everything works

          • Stoffers

            I don't know how the proteins in a steak are broken down when digested, are you saying I shouldn't feed my child?

          • ari_free

            If the kid is allergic to steak, you should know that and not give him any steak

          • DanSan

            All I'm hearing is blah blah blah someone else should be doing my job as a parent. Its called watch your own damn kid and teach him not to purchase anything.

          • Big Tony

            What a ridiculous excuse.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        Bullshit. If you enable password requirement for all purchases - that means EVERY PURCHASE

  • Sorian

    How will they determine who will get the refund and who won't.

    Say for example, I bought some in-game currency through IAP and really meant to, will they refund the purchase even though it was legit?

    • muhkuhap

      Yeah, my girlfriend asked me the excactly same thing..

      • senor_heisenberg

        C'mon man, why you lying? Everyone knows people on the internet don't have significant others.

        • muhkuhap

          Damn. You got me :(

          • senor_heisenberg

            :)

  • Tomasz Kuczynski

    How come this wasn't a thing with long distance calling? I know my parents were angry a few times when they noticed that the phone bill was a couple hundred dollars. Both my brother and I did that. Never have I hears someone say "but you didn't prompt the caller for a password".

    Same principle, when I first got a cellphone I would buy apps and that again - made the cell bill a few hundred. I even got away with WoW subscription through phone bill in early 2000s.

    • Stoffers

      Because you could set it to require a password for all purchases, not for purchases except for the 30 minutes following a purchase. All means all, not some.

    • Cory S

      hehe a friend and I once cost his dad over a grand playing a few direct modem to modem 10 hour long AoK games.

    • Sorian

      Because IAPs started to become the norm and more and more have smartphones/tablets.

      • Tomasz Kuczynski

        I don't think I'm that old - when Cellphones first started (up until Android and iOS) you could "download" demos and then it would be a form of "IAP" to buy the full game. It would go the phone bill and no authentication was required.

        • Sorian

          Than maybe I am "just too young", or "feared the wrath of my father if I was found out."

        • primalxconvoy

          These are the best forms of iaps. Unfortunately, the ones discussed refer to the ones that, possibly to kids, don't look like purchases, but rather look like normal parts of the game.

          Some have said that these "hidden" iap's were deliberately designed to appear to be "part" of the game. Combined with the "hidden" options to disable iap's then you have grounds for legal action and rightly so.

    • primalxconvoy

      Because long distance phone calls are not, by default, hard wired into your phone and can be made with the touch of a button back in the day?

      Usually, these days, if I call a free phone number internationally, there is an automated message explaining that the call isn't free.

      Funny how that works, eh?

  • Ray Sunghwa Woo

    This refund is only available for America.

    • muhkuhap

      Well, where else... "Caution: Hot coffee"... "Do not microwave your cat"..

      • Đức Thành

        I don't get the reference, please elaborate with links and stuff?

        • Stoffers

          The hot coffee is regarding a suit against McDonald's for being repeatedly warned their coffee was dangerously hot but they ignored it until someone got major burns and won for millions. They figured the coffee would stay fresh longer if they kept it scalding, profits over safety. The ignorant don't know the facts about the case but still cry about it being ridiculous.

          • ari_free

            Breaking news: Hot coffee can burn you. Also good to know: if you jump off a cliff you will probably die.

          • Đức Thành

            And water is wet and can drown you, I presume?

          • ari_free

            No, it was really the water company that drowned you because they didn't sufficiently warn you

          • Sorian

            Unless it's a lake/river/stream/ocean

          • ari_free

            I'm sure lawyers will find a way to make money off that

          • Đức Thành

            Wow. 'Merican indeed.

          • Cory S

            After the appeals she actually only got about a 100 grand which didn't even cover medical and attorney costs Source: I worked for the attorney.

          • Stoffers

            None the less the suit was deserved, the pay out was small in my opinion.

          • Cory S

            I agree

      • DanSan

        Also the same society where we have to warn people not to imitate the things they see on TV with warning disclaimers. Apparently between my parents generation and my generation this country became stupid as hell and need to have a nanny to tell them what to do and what not to do.

  • ari_free

    If we were talking about a fisher price toy, something that was actually designed for kids, and for some strange reason the cute little button on the truck charged your credit card, that would be one thing. But a cell phone is not a kiddie toy. Not until kids get their own credit cards so that they can do whatever they want with their own money.

    • primalxconvoy

      Except we live in an age where parents, of all walks of life, use them as pacifiers. We even have cases and apps aimed at kids, because the phone or tablet has joined, of not replaced the TV as the new "nanny" for kids.

      If TVs allowed kids to press buttons easily to make purchases on a remote control, or old people or foreigners, etc, who may not be good at understanding languages, etc, then we would have the same situation.

      Is allowing a kid to be in the same room with a TV bad? Perhaps, but almost every parent is guilty of it.

  • Leonardo Baez

    19 millons is small money for google, byt anyways they shouldnt pay. It's parents fault, not google fault

    • primalxconvoy

      Really? I suppose it's not a bar's fault if they allow drunk customers to get behind the wheels of their cars, then is it?

      Oh, I know! Medicine companies should also make pill bottles easy for anyone, including kids, to open, then leave instructions on how to make them kid-proof written in tiny letters, under the main wrapper, under a flap, in French.

      Parents these days, eh readers?

  • iblesq

    ok, how i can get my refund?

  • CasperTFG

    Lazy ass parenting. That's all it is. To all those parents who complained their kids made in-app purchases; go f*ck yourself.

  • http://www.keydifference.com/ parkerwills

    Well Its fair in making this point being counted by Google!! But all these days it was like totally grasping the money from the little ones!!

  • German Alonso Pimentel Vera

    It's simple, Adults suppose to know that games have in-app purchases, and if they don't at least once while playing they ought to stump upon it, there's a lot of methods to prevent money draining mistakes (i.e. Airplane Mode, don't put your credit card, give your kids a toy car or something) always the easy way out, "take my phone and don't bother me". Blame Google (well yeah, partially is Google's fault for lax developer policy in that aspect) but an "Adult" who use and smartphone are bound to experience once in a while the pesky ways of in-app purchases to blend in the game´s GUI... hence is careless to lend your phone to a Kid knowing that -- 50/50 to blame