Google will refund at least $19 million to consumers billed for unauthorized charges because their children made in-app purchases on Android mobile devices, the Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday.
The FTC alleged that Google had violated federal prohibitions on “unfair” commercial practices since 2011 by making it relatively easy for kids to make in-app purchases via the Google Play store without a parent’s express permission. Consumers have complained about being billed hundreds of dollars in unauthorized charges, the FTC said.
“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 authorize,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement about the settlement agreement.
In addition to providing full refunds to consumers, Google will also be required to modify its billing practices so children can’t inadvertently make purchases without a parent’s consent.
In a statement, a Google spokesperson said the company had already changed its billing practices. “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,” the company said.
Google’s $19 million settlement with the FTC comes just two months after Amazon chose to fight similar charges about in-app purchases made on Kindle devices. In July, the FTC sued Amazon over the complaints after the company declined to settle. Apple also settled similar charges in January and promised to refund at least $32 million in unauthorized charges.