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Google faces lawsuit for unauthorised in-app purchases

Unauthorised in-app purchases have been in the FTCs crosshairs

Web giant Google is facing a lawsuit in the US over in-app purchases made without the bill payer’s permission. The case is similar in scope to charges filed against Apple in January, in which the company agreed to pay $32.5m in refunds to consumers to settle a complaint made by the US Fair Trade Commission (FTC).

The class action complaint against Google was made by a US customer, Ilana Imber-Gluck, in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of herself and other parents and guardians in similar situations. Imber-Gluck claims that children are encouraged to download a free or modestly priced app from the Google Play store, but then incur significant charges for in-game purchases without gaining parental authorisation.

The class action noted that Google requires Android users to authenticate their accounts by entering a password prior to purchasing an app or buying in-game currency. However, once the password has been entered, Google allows the user to make further in-app purchases for a period of 30 minutes without having to re-enter their password.

Imber-Gluck said that she was charged $65.95 for game currency in the game Marvel Run Jump Smash that had been purchased by her four and five year old sons within the 30 minutes after she gave her permission for the game download.

Google did not issue a response to the claims at the time of writing.

In January this year, Apple agreed to pay $32.5m in refunds to consumers in similar circumstances, following a complaint made by the US Fair Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC said that it received tens of thousands of complaints from parents about unauthorised in-app purchases made by their children. One complainant reported that her daughter spent $2,600 in one app alone. Apple was also required to change its billing practices and ensure that it has obtained “expressed, informed consent” from customers before charging them for an in app purchase.

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