Make us your home page
Instagram

FTC sues Amazon over children's purchases without parental consent

SEATTLE — The Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon on Thursday for allowing children to make purchases within mobile applications even though the company knew that kids were doing so without parental permission.

The suit, filed in federal court in Seattle, alleges that the online retail giant knowingly allowed kids to run up "millions of dollars" of charges buying virtual items within the gaming apps such as "coins," "stars" and "acorns," all without parental involvement.

"Companies need to get consumers' consent before placing charges on their bills," said Jessica Rich, director of the agency's consumer protection bureau.

Amazon declined to comment on the suit, except to reiterate comments that its lawyer, Andrew C. DeVore, made in a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez last week. Then, DeVore disputed the claims and described litigation as "an unfortunate misallocation of the commission's resources."

The dispute stems from gaming apps that Amazon sells from its Appstore to consumers, who then play them on mobile phones or tablets. The apps, which target children, such as Pet Shop Story and Ice Age Village, aren't made by Amazon. But Amazon receives 30 percent of all revenue from in-app purchases.

When Amazon introduced in-app purchases in November 2011, it didn't require any passwords to make in-app purchases. Soon afterward, an Amazon Appstore manager described the level of complaints about unauthorized purchases as "near house on fire," according to the suit.

Amazon updated its policy in March 2012 to require authorization for in-app purchases over $20.

At the time, an Appstore manager wrote in an internal document obtained by the FTC that "it's much easier to get upset about Amazon letting your child purchase a $99 product without any password protection than a $20 product."

"Over time, Amazon changed its in-app charge process, but it did not fix the problem, and it was not transparent with consumers," Rich said.

Moreover, Rich said the refund policy for parents who complained about unauthorized purchases was "not adequate."

"The path to seeking a refund has been unclear and rife with deterrents, including statements that consumers cannot in fact get a refund for in-app charges," Rich said.

In its suit, the agency seeks refunds, not financial penalties.

FTC sues Amazon over children's purchases without parental consent 07/10/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2014 6:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself

    Airlines

    TAMPA — By the end of the 2026, Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport to function as its own little city.

    Artist rendering of phase two of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space and a gas station, among other things.
[Courtesy of Tampa International Airport]
  2. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    A Florida Highway Patrol Academy class in the late 1980s. Typically, graduating classes had about 80 recruits. But the most recent class has less than half that as the agency continues to struggle to fill vacancies. [

Florida: Highway Patrol]
  3. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump

    Business

    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)