Google has had its knuckles wrapped, and been fined $19 million (£11.6 million) for unfairly billing children for payments from the Google Play app store.
In this case, the charges range from 99 cents to $200, and date back from 2011.
That was when Google started violating the US government’s “unfair commercial practices” by failing to put in place safeguards to stop children buying apps using their parents’ devices.
Kids were free to buy pricey apps and in-app extras, often without being told they were being charged. Their parents didn’t find out until they saw their credit card statements.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Google knew what was going on – just like Amazon did – and did nothing to stop it. It even referred complaints to the app developers rather than taking responsibility itself.
In a statement, the FTC said: “Google employees referred to the issue as ‘friendly fraud’ and ‘family fraud’ in describing kids’ unauthorised in-app charges as a leading source of refund requests, according to the complaint. The complaint further alleges that Google’s practice has been to refer consumers seeking refunds first to the app developer.”
Google told us in a statement: “We’ve already made product changes to ensure people have the best Google Play experience possible. We’re glad to put this matter behind us so we can focus on creating more ways for people to enjoy all the entertainment they love.”
In-app purchases has been a hot topic in recent years. Last year, after a spate of similar cases, Apple introduced warnings for in-app purchases on the App Store.
Read more: Apple reveals reasons for rejecting apps