Amazon defends policy on in-app purchases made by kids

Amazon has objected to proposed FTC fines and additional record keeping and disclosure requirements related to in-app purchases made by children.

The FTC said that thousands of parents and other customers had complained about unauthorized in-app charges by their children, totaling hundreds of dollars in some cases.

According to the FTC Amazon "often has failed to obtain parents' or other account holders' informed consent to in-app charges incurred by children" since it began allowing in-app purchases in late 2011.

The FTC said Amazon would need to make the notices more prominent, require passwords for all in-app purchases and make refunds simpler and easier. The agency said it wasn't until June that Amazon required consumers' informed consent for all in-app purchases on its latest devices.

Amazon countered with a statement by Andrew DeVore, an Amazon associate general counsel, "When customers told us their kids had made purchases they didn't want, we refunded those purchases." In a letter to the FTC DeVore said Amazon's app store included "prominent notice of in-app purchasing, effective parental controls and real-time notice of every in-app purchase."

Mr. DeVore said Amazon gave prompt refunds to customers who complained and has updated its app store to conform to the standards the FTC set for Apple earlier this year.

In January Apple agreed to pay at least $32.5 million to settle FTC charges that it didn't do enough to prevent children from purchasing virtual goods while using mobile apps without getting parental consent. Those funds were to be distributed to consumers who said their children had made unauthorized in-app purchases. Apple settled a civil lawsuit in California over the same issues last year.

"The commission is focused on ensuring that companies comply with the fundamental principle that consumers should not be made to pay for something they did not authorize," an FTC spokesman said. "Consumers using mobile devices have the same long-established and fundamental consumer protections as they would anywhere else."

Based on personal experience I would have to say that Amazon already has one of the best returns and refunds policies in the business and makes every effort to resolve problems quickly and fairly. I have to side with Amazon on this one.

Guy Wright

Guy Wright has been covering the technology space since the days when computers had cranks and networks were steam powered. He has been a writer and editor for more years then he cares to admit.


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