Amazon Fire Phone AH-8

FTC Questioning Amazon’s In-App Purchase Policy

July 2, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

Developing Apps is no easy job and not many developers become millionaires, however, the days of a Free App or Paid App are quickly going by the wayside to make room for the lucrative “Freemium” or “In-App” purchase Applications. There was a time you could get an App free because there were bits of advertising throughout the entire app – usually discreetly at the bottom.  If you prefer the application with no ads, there would be a one-time charge of $.99 – $3.99 or so…that is the way I purchase my Apps – I want to pay up front and avoid the advertisements.  However those days are long gone with the introduction of in-app purchases – the apps that keep on taking and taking your money.

The way they work is the App Developer will gladly give you their application for no upfront charge – ‘free” – but then if you want this feature it will cost you so much and if you want another feature, you pay for that…kind of like an ala carte menu, and in the end it would have been cheaper to have that original steak dinner, because that sandwich that you opted for to save money has now ballooned into $15 with all of your side dishes.  A good example is a free camera app – but if you want those fancy filters it will cost you extra, you want more tools (like sharpening, blurring, etc) that will cost you extra.  Games, such as Candy Crush is another good example – they will gladly give you the game for free to get you hooked, and then charge you for different levels…I know some older church ladies that have spent a fortune on that one.

The App Stores are catching some heat from parents and now the government for the amount of money that their children have been spending on in-app purchases.  I would have done that ONE time and after my Mother got a hold of me – NEVER again…however, parents today seem to want to put the blame on everybody but their children.  Not long ago the FTC forced Apple to fork over $32.5 million to angry parents.  The first of the year, Google’s in-app purchase policy was questioned by Consumer Reports and now a disgruntled Mother filed a class action suite against Google when her child racked up $65 worth of in-app purchases.

Now, just as the Apple settlement comes to a close, the FTC is turning to Amazon as well – claiming that the company is not taking enough steps to prevent these excessive in-app purchases from incurring in the first place.  Amazon insists that it gives users a “prominent notice of in-app purchasing, effective parental controls and real-time notice of every in-app purchase,” but the FTC isn’t buying what they’re selling and is now looking for ways that are more restrictive, have clearer notices, and easier methods and access to refunds.  The FTC also noted that most of Amazon’s added ‘protection’ was only implemented this last month…but Amazon is not backing down and claims they are ready to go to court to fight, if necessary.

I avoid in-app purchases at all costs, but the very few times I have dealt with them, I felt I was warned in advance. Please hit us up on our Google+ Page and let us know if you think in-app purchases are deceiving to the customer or if children just need more ‘parental’ control…as always, we would love to hear from you.