Google to refund $19M run up by children

After a government complaint, Google has agreed to refund at least $19 million to parents whose children ran up charges through applications on phones and tablets.

The action announced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday comes after similar complaints against Apple and Amazon and is part of an agency initiative to ensure that tech companies get parents’ consent before their kids spend money.

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According to the FTC, Google has allowed children to spend money on apps in its Play store for things such as game upgrades and virtual items without parental approval since 2011. Purchases made within apps can run up to $200 each, and the FTC reported that some parents were stuck with hundreds of dollars of unauthorized purchases on their bills.

Google will refund money to everyone who files a complaint about unauthorized charges. If people demand less than $19 million over the course of the next 12 months, the rest of the money will go to the U.S. government.

“For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. “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.”

A Google representative said in a statement that the company has already made product changes to the Google Play store is “glad to put this matter behind us so we can focus on creating more ways for people to enjoy all the entertainment they love.”

Earlier this year, Apple agreed to refund at least $32.5 million over charges from in-app purchases. 

The FTC hit Amazon with a similar complaint about charges children made on its Kindle tablets, but the Seattle retail titan has fought back, setting up a showdown with the regulator.

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