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Google The Almighty Buck

Google To Refund $19M In In-App Purchases Made By Kids 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-your-money-kid dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has agreed pay $19 million to refund customers unfairly charged for in-app purchases made by children without authorization from their parents. The company has agreed to change its billing practices to ensure that it obtains informed consent from customers before charging them for items sold within mobile apps, according to the FTC. "For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. "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.""
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Google To Refund $19M In In-App Purchases Made By Kids

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  • Insane (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I have kids...I'm not a moron...I didn't save my password. It prompts me for each purchase.

    I have no idea how they lost this.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I have no idea how they lost this.

      "For millions of American families"
      "As more Americans embrace mobile technology"

      That's how, they need the stupidity police.

    • Caveat Emptor (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rmdingler (1955220) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @08:12PM (#47831187)
      I am inclined to agree with your general sentiment, but it's accurate to say some of the apps are predatory and targeted at those too young to make informed decisions.

      $19 million to Google.... simply good PR at a bargain.

      • I used to work at the Apple Store and before they released the changes to the in-app purchasing. One day, a customer cam in and was pissed off that his kid had racked up $200 in some scammy game app. I'll never forget this, but one of his main counterpoints was him incredulously saying, "What am I supposed to do? Review every app my kid wants to play??"
        I nodded and smiled in commiseration, but inside my head I said, "Yes. Yes you are. You're the adult, that's what you do."
        So, yeah, there are definitely pr
    • Re:Insane (Score:5, Informative)

      by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @08:29PM (#47831289)

      I have kids...I'm not a moron...I didn't save my password. It prompts me for each purchase.

      I have no idea how they lost this.

      Well, let's see, could it be because they didn't always offer the options that you think are so great now??

      From TFA:

      The FTC's complaint against Google says that when the company initially introduced in-app purchases in 2011, buyers did not have to input their passwords. When the company implemented the requirement the following year, Google did not tell users that entering a password triggered the opening of a 30-minute window where the password would not need to be entered again when making a purchase.

      Since then, Google has added more password protection options, letting users control how often they need to input a password: every time they make a purchase, every 30 minutes, or never.

      It doesn't take a moron to get caught in a situation where they don't offer the reasonable options you mention, or don't clearly warn you that it's a "free-for-all" for purchases for 30 minutes.

      Frankly -- everytime Slashdot runs an article like this, a bunch of ACs (mostly) come out of the woodwork who want to "blame the victim." And yes -- that is precisely what you are doing. Taking money from someone without their express authorization is THEFT. I don't care if you are some app programmer who makes 90% of your profits off of ill-advised in-app purchases. It's wrong, unless you are damn sure that the purchase is authorized..

      I don't care about the kids argument. As an ADULT, I don't want purchases without confirmation to be a default unless I expressly authorize it. For developers out there -- the moral thing to do in any system where you are going to take money from someone is to at least allow them to confirm that they want you to take it... at least once (probably twice). There's nothing wrong with offering an option, a la Amazon's "one-click" check-out, for people who OPT IN, but that is precisely what it should: a screen popping up and saying explicitly, "You are about to authorize password-less purchases for forever/next 30 minutes/whatever!! Please type in your password again and check this box if you agree you REALLY want this!"

      Everyone around here seems to get offended in other situations where people "blame the victim" or where technology doesn't offer "opt-in." When someone's gonna take your money, you damn well should have a system that is opt-out by default.

      Google didn't clearly have all of this a few years ago. Hence, they were taking money from people without permission. Hence, they should definitely give it back if people request it. This has nothing to do with kids or bad parents or morons or whatever -- it's basic ethics that you don't get to take people's money if they didn't say you could.

      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        There's also something called trust. Children are not idiots (at least most of them.) Instead of giving the phone to your kids hoping they won't find the purchase button, tell them exactly where it is, what it does and that they are very specifically NOT allowed to tap on it. And that you'll receive an automatic email if they do (which is true at least for Apple) so that they can't hide it.

        Worked for me - early versions of iOS had the same issue. Never had to complain. Additionnally, I respect my kids a lit

        • by gsslay (807818)

          No, children are not idiots. They are children. That means they lack experience in all things in life. They can be easily mislead (either by design or accident) to do things that an adult wouldn't without appreciating the consequences. Because they know no better.

          Unless you want to spend your time familiarising yourself with every app your children use, down to the detail, then you need to trust (your word) the app to play fair and not exploit (either by design or accident) your children's naivety.

          Tha

          • by smkndrkn (3654)

            I was getting banged for $9.99/mo until I tracked down my son had opted-in to the free music trial and never canceled. Google cleared it up for me in a few minutes and refunded the last bunch of charges. No biggie in the long run and my kids got a fresh talk about app downloads.

          • by Pieroxy (222434)

            I don't know about Android, but on iOS, you can be mislead to click on an in-app purchase, but then the very familiar dialog pops out and you KNOW you're about to spend money. No, my kids at least cannot be fooled by that. I've seen them ask me if they could do it, so no, they are not that easily fooled.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mom downloads a "free" game for their kid. Mom hands phone to kid to play "free" game. The mom shouldn't wind up with thousands of dollars in a bill.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No reason they couldn't jump into the app store and purchase whatever they want. Simple answer is be a responsible person and don't have it save your password, how fucking difficult is that? I know it's slightly more difficult than just blaming somebody else but not by much.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by cheater512 (783349)

      Mom shouldn't save credit card details on devices she gives to her kids.

      Might as well give them the wallet to play with as well.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        But that's the problem. Before you had no choice. You want to purchase something, ok... buy it. Ten minutes later while your on the toilet your kids picks up your phone, and can purchase whatever they want.

        Imagine if you bought something on Amazon, and then you had no choice to logout. That way anyone else who used the computer could buy stuff on Amazon.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        Not sure why it's modded flamebait.

        It is the very description of the problem. Stop using a credit card attached to an iPad to babysit your kids.

        • On the theory that a parent can always give the kids attention? Doesn't work that way. There's times when you really want to have a toy you can have the kid play with for a short while.

          So, what do you have against toys? Is a toy truck necessarily a babysitter?

          • by mythosaz (572040)

            I have no problem giving children toys.

            I have a problem with giving a child a toy that has the ability to cause me to miss my mortgage payment if they press a flashing button too many times.

            Any kid can burn the house down if he's determined, but there's no reason to hand them matches and take a nap.

            • However, if the ability to "press button to miss mortgage payment" is hidden (such as when you think you need to enter the password for all spending, you haven't been told otherwise, and there's a window), it becomes a lot more reasonable to do it.

    • by Seumas (6865)

      Maybe don't give your toddler your $800 cell phone?

      • Maybe don't give your toddler your $800 cell phone?

        How else are the little snowflakes supposed to stare mindlessly into the device in a zombie-like state? Interaction with the world around them? Please.

    • Mom downloads a "free" game for their kid. Mom hands phone to kid to play "free" game. The mom shouldn't wind up with thousands of dollars in a bill.

      What Mom should be doing:
      - Mom (or mum) teaches child about the basic concept of money.
      - Mom shows the child the screen that says "buy" and explains that you need to ask mommy 1st.
      - Mom disables all Google Play purchases without a password prompt. Doing their bit to ensure their child cant rack up $$$ of purchases.

      The Result:
      - Child learns some discipline and basic understand of money.
      - Mom takes some responsibility for her child and their actions.

      What We actually do
      "blame everyone else" for their child's

      • Look, I was eight or so before I really realized that checks were money. It's an abstract concept, and kids have problems with those. It's not a matter of stupidity or bad education or bad parenting, it's just that the brain doesn't get wired up to deal with all of this for quite a few years. Sometimes you can see things click in a child's mind, and that's fun.

        And, of course, Google Play purchases need a password, which the responsible parent keeps from the child (heck, I never even tried to figure ou

      • What Mom should be doing:
        - Mom disables all Google Play purchases without a password prompt. Doing their bit to ensure their child cant rack up $$$ of purchases.

        The Result:

        And Goggle wasn't allowing that as an option, hense the lawsuit. Glad to see you agree with the decision.

  • Neat! (Score:4, Funny)

    by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Thursday September 04, 2014 @08:05PM (#47831145) Homepage Journal

    I guess I'm going to have my kids buy all the in-app purchases from now on.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    99% of 'Free' apps are paid for, either by eyeballs (advertising) or the hooker model (looking is free, the rest will cost you).

    What actually needs to happen is the payment model needs to be explicitly stated. The app is either $9.99, paid for through advertising or paid for through in-app purchases, and "Free" should be reserved for just that - actually 'Free' apps

    • What actually needs to happen is the payment model needs to be explicitly stated. The app is either $9.99, paid for through advertising or paid for through in-app purchases, and "Free" should be reserved for just that - actually 'Free' apps

      For example, the payment model called "shareware" might include a game whose first levels are without charge but which has a one-time charge for each expansion pack. A shareware first-person shooter might come with 8 levels, add 24 more levels if you buy "Ultimate" IAP, and add another set of 32 if you buy "Sequel" IAP. (This is how Doom was originally priced.) I'd define shareware as a free app with a small number of "entitlements", which refers to IAPs that stay with the user's app store account so long

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bing Tsher E (943915)

        The concept of shareware, as originally envisioned by Buttonware back when the term was first coined, is that the software is totally available, and people should donate money in an honor system, if they wanted to support the software. Partially functional software that has to be paid for to get the whole use is called crippleware.

        • Partially functional software that has to be paid for to get the whole use is called crippleware.

          Also known as "Free to Play" in todays world.

    • As a phone developer myself I mostly develop Free games that is to say free with no barriers.
      However I do put a "Buy me a coffee" or "Donate" button on the applications I write however that means that I get flagged as having "in-app purchases" putting me in the same category as Dungeon Keeper and Candy crush where its "Free to play until you hit a wall and have to buy your self out".

      More transparency for the buyer as to what they are installing and whats in it labels like "Contains banner adverts", "Large

  • micropayments don't require normal credit/debit card safeties such as PIN NUMBERS, once a company has your details they can plank through micropayments at will. That shit adds up.

    Simple solution: outlaw micropayments. The banks are there ostensibly to look after our financial interests, the tools are already there, let's get their use enforced under ALL payment circumstances.

  • by hilather (1079603) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @08:47PM (#47831377)
    Seriously, monthly hidden cell phone fees that "children" incur without permission probably vastly surpasses 19 million every month. Why hasn't the FTC done ANYTHING about that.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In my experience about two years ago, with an android tablet and a 3-4 year old child: there was absolutely no setting I could activate to require password re-entry for purchases via Google Play (or Store).

    I had a Google Checkout account (for my business) and I was required to have a credit card on file with Google. Purchases could be made with my card anytime I was logged into Google on my tablet, which was anytime I used it. I also had games for my kid to play, she was old enough to pick up the tablet on

  • Google further went on to say that they'd have to wait until it went to the bank on Monday, because "we don't carry small change."

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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