Has your child gone on an Amazon in-app shopping spree?

The FTC is suing the company for letting kids buy virtual coins, gems, and other items without parental knowledge

Published: July 11, 2014 01:45 PM

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Games for kids in the Amazon Appstore look innocent enough, and many are even free—but some parents have been getting bill shock when they see hefty credit-card charges for in-app purchases they had no idea their children were making.

That's why the FTC is filing suit against Amazon: The commission alleges that the company "has billed parents and other account holders for millions of dollars in unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children."

When Amazon instituted in-app purchases in November 2011, the complaint alleges, it did not require passwords before purchases were made, making it easy for kids to buy without parental authorization. In March 2012, Amazon added password requirements for in-app purchases, but only for charges of more than $20. It wasn't until June 2014 that Amazon changed its in-app-charges policy to require consent from account holders—liklely parents—for these purchases.

And, says the FTC, games for kids "often encourage children to acquire virtual items in ways that blur the lines between what costs virtual currency and what costs real money." The agency is seeking refunds to affected consumers, and to ban Amazon from billing any account holders for unauthorized charges.

Amazon customers are not alone; in January, Apple signed a consent order with the FTC to refund at least $32.5 million to parents whose kids had shopped unsupervised within apps that had been downloaded from the company's App Store. At the time, we also reported that the Google Play Store lets kids spend like drunken sailors—they could shop for a full 30 minutes after entering a password.

—Carol Mangis

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