Amazon’s mobile app is a pretty convenient way to shop while staying glued to your couch. It’s just that when the app falls into the wrong hands -- namely, the tiny hands of an enterprising child -- that you might accrue charges for things you never meant to buy.
That’s why Amazon has finally agreed to pay customers a whopping $70 million to settle unauthorized in-app purchases made by kids between November 2011 and May 2016. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took Amazon to court in July 2014, suing the retail giant over unauthorized charges incurred by children. Myriad complaints were filed by parents, who alleged the company’s disclosures about in-app purchases weren’t sufficient. This mainly applied to mobile games downloaded on the app for free, many of which allow players to buy goods on the platform. Kids weren’t aware they were purchasing items with real money, according to customers who unexpectedly opened sky-high credit card bills, reports The Verge.
“This case demonstrates what should be a bedrock principle for all companies — you must get customers’ consent before you charge them,” said Thomas B. Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a statment. “Consumers affected by Amazon’s practices can now be compensated for charges they didn’t expect or authorize.”
Amazon is following suit with Google and Apple, both of which settled cases of a similar bent 2014, doling out millions in the process. Amazon is expected to announce details on the refund program shortly. The company initially offered to reimburse customers via gift cards and store credits, but a district judge ruled against that last year, siding with FTC and saddling Amazon with the massive $70 million debt.
While a bit of justice for bewildered parents, all of this seems to suggest that children and smartphones are a hazardous -- and potentially very expensive -- concoction.