Kids’ in-app spending on Android? Parents didn’t app-rove

Ever hand your smartphone over to your kids? You probably didn’t think it could be a hundred-dollar decision — but for some parents, it was.

Today the FTC announced that Google is settling charges that it allowed kids to spend money in apps without their parent’s permission. The FTC announced a similar settlement with Apple earlier this year.

Google offers thousands of apps for Android users in its Google Play store that are geared toward kids. But what many people didn’t know is that some of those games — including free ones — allow kids to make in-app purchases. In other words, kids can spend real money — charged to their parent’s account — on virtual goods like game currency or virtual fish to feed a virtual polar bear. Items can cost anywhere from 99 cents to $200, and the line between what costs real money and what doesn’t isn’t always clear.

From March 2011 to late 2012, kids using Android apps could simply charge in-app items to the related account, no password needed. After that, Google started asking for a password before the first charge but still didn’t tell parents they were authorizing a purchase, or that entering a password opens up a 30-minute spending window where kids can rack up some serious charges.

As part of the settlement, Google will be contacting customers about how to get a full refund for unauthorized in-app charges by kids, and has agreed to change how it gets permission before kids can make in-app purchases in the future.

What can you do to make sure you’re up on in-app purchases on your devices?

Read about the app before you download it

That includes the store description and user reviews, keeping an eye out for any mention of in-app purchases. You also can look at outside reviews from sources you respect.

Check the password settings on your device

You can check whether your device has settings available to require a password before an in-app charge. If your device is running a recent version of Google Play, you can open the Google Play Store app, click on the “Settings” symbol in the upper left hand corner, and view “User Controls” by scrolling down. To change your password settings, click on “Require Password for Purchases” and choose when a password prompt will appear before purchases.

Play the app with your kids first

What better way to know if an app will allow in-app purchases than to see it for yourself? Talk to your kids about the fact that buying gear and other things in games could cost real money.

For more on keeping up with kids’ apps, check out our infographic and read Understanding Mobile Apps.

 

Tagged with: app, game, kids, mobile, parents

Comments

Thank you

today found out that I have had many withdraws from my accout by Google.com totaling several hundreds of dollars in which I never althurized. Now I would like to knoe how to get involved with the class action lawsuit and get a refund. Please help.

This is not a class action lawsuit. It's a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. As part of the settlement,  Google will be contacting customers about how to get a full refund for unauthorized in-app charges by kids, and has agreed to change how it gets permission before kids can make in-app purchases in the future.

If you have questions about disputing other billing charges, you can find more information in this article.

I dont think its googles responsibility to control who can make these in-app purchases/charges or be designated as a baby sitter to let the parents know what their children are doing. Its the parents responsibility to control their children and to know what their doing. Lets get smart. If you dont want surprising charges on your cell, tablet, whatever... dont give the item to anyone where that can happen and if the parents just cant say no, then its up to them to be aware of whats going on. Also, you need to set up passwords on accounts. And lastly, the parent needs to stress with a punishment as a backup to the children to never make any in-app purchases.

If your password are auto saves anyone will be able to rack up charges because the password will automatically sign in so this is going to give a false sense of security. The only way is to have a no in app purchase allowed setting which most apps won't want because that's how they make their money.

REFUND|APP,GAME,KIDS,MOBILE,PARENTS
PRIVACY & IDENTITY

AND NOW WHERE WILL YOU SEND MY REFUND??
GIVE ME A FULL DETAILS.

As part of the settlement, Google will be contacting customers about how to get a full refund for unauthorized in-app charges by kids, and has agreed to change how it gets permission before kids can make in-app purchases in the future.

If you have not opened a claim with Google, then you will not be contacted. Is this what it really boils down to. It seems that a little more direction/guidance should be shed towards fraudulent charges that were placed towards honest-hard working American accounts. You cannot even dispute these charges with the bank. It is considered authorized, because it is your tablet or phone. Additionally after you type your password, your device allows you to make purchases for a 30 minute window. Are we to be victimize for App Store and Play Store negligence of reverting charges?

What information is Google permitted to request of you if you were to request refund? I am concerned I will have to provide my children's name and they will therefore be on a "list" as everyone knows how powerful Google Analytic s is.

As part of the settlement Google will be contacting consumers directly and they’ll let you know what information you need to provide. Once you receive the notice from Google, if you have any concerns about the information provided as part of the process, please feel free to contact the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or by phone at 1-877-FTC-HELP. Thank you. 

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