Federal Court Holds Amazon Liable For Kids' In-App Purchases

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Children going online and making random purchases on app stores is not exactly an unheard-of phenomenon. Even Kanye West spoke out against it when he found his daughter making such purchases on his iPad. While these issues often raise the debate of parental responsibility, the fact still remains that it happens, and when it does it is invariably the parents who have to bear the financial burden of those purchases made online by their kids. However, according to Justice John C. Coughenour of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, parents shouldn't have to pay the price for their kids' online misadventures.

According to a judgment pronounced on Tuesday by the aforementioned court in a case brought by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) against Amazon, the federal judge found the world's largest online retailer liable for unfairly billing consumers for unauthorized in-app purchases by children. According to the judge, Amazon billing customers for such purchases were both unfair and unlawful as the company had failed to make it clear that apps labeled as being 'Free' on its app store can actually come with options to allow in-store purchases, which is how most children end up spending money online without authorization from their parents.

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The lawsuit relates to a whole bunch of instances dating as far back as November, 2011, which is when Amazon started allowing developers to include the in-app purchase feature in their apps and games. It was only in July, 2014 that the company decided to add more detailed information and warning prompts regarding the matter. The FTC now hopes that it will be able to make the Seattle, Washington-based internet giant refund all associated costs that it believes was charged unfairly by the online retailer. The federal agency had already settled earlier in similar cases against both Apple and Google, forcing the two Silicon Valley tech giants to issue refunds in excess of $50 million combined. Meanwhile, in this particular instance, the FTC Chairwoman, Ms. Edith Ramirez, has already hailed the ruling, but Amazon is yet to issue any statement to the media in this regard.