In a major victory for parents, Amazon agreed to refund as much as $70 million to users whose children made unauthorized in-app game purchases between November 2011 and May 2016, the Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday.
According to the FTC, "Amazon offers many children’s apps in its appstore for download to mobile devices such as the Kindle Fire....Amazon’s setup allowed children playing these kids’ games to spend unlimited amounts of money to pay for virtual items within the apps such as 'coins,' 'stars,' and 'acorns' without parental involvement."
The refunds may not mark the end of the issue, however. The FTC agreed to drop its appeal requesting an injunction that would have banned Amazon from continuing this practice future. Currently, any in-app purchase over $20 requires a parental control password or PIN, according to Amazon's site.
Amazon declined to comment for this story.
Parents who realized their kids had accrued a hefty Amazon bill faced an uphill battle to get a refund. Amazon's in-app charges are final and non-refundable.
One consumer's six-year-old, who couldn't read, simply “click[ed] a lot of buttons at random" on her Kindle and racked up several unauthorized charges, according to the 2014 complaint. Another consumer's daughter amassed a $358.42 bill in unauthorized charges.
“This case demonstrates what should be a bedrock principle for all companies — you must get customers’ consent before you charge them,” Thomas Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “Consumers affected by Amazon’s practices can now be compensated for charges they didn’t expect or authorize.”
The agency's action against Amazon follows two similar cases against Apple and Google which allowed children to make in-app purchases without their parents consent. Apple and Google were both ordered to offer millions in refunds to consumers for the charges.
Amazon will be leading the refund operations, and details on the program will be announced shortly, the FTC said.