U.S. sues Amazon over purchases by kids using mobile apps

WASHINGTON Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:52am IST

A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/Files

A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado July 23, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking/Files

Related Topics

Stocks

   

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government sued Amazon.com on Thursday for allowing children to collectively run up millions of dollars in purchases on the credit cards of their unsuspecting parents while playing mobile apps like "Tap Zoo" and "Ice Age Village."

The lawsuit, filed by the Federal Trade Commission, seeks to make the online retailer refund money spent without parental permission and to end Amazon's practice of allowing purchases without requiring a password or other mechanism that gives parents control over their accounts.

The unauthorized charges are often associated with children's apps, such as games, that can be free to download but allow players to make in-app purchases by buying "coins" or other digital products with the credit card associated with the device, the FTC said in its complaint.

The FTC complaint cited "Tap Zoo" and "Ice Age Village" in which children manage a zoo or an ancient town. To do that, they can purchase digital items that often cost real money. A user put a review on Amazon.com in July 2013 complaining that "Tap Zoo" was a "cash trap" and said his son spent $65 on it without permission. The game currently tells parents how to disable the purchasing function.

The apps run on Amazon's Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD and devices that use Google's Android operating system.

The FTC settled a similar case with Apple Inc in January. Apple agreed to refund to customers at least $32.5 million in unauthorized charges made by children and to change its billing practices to require consent from parents for in-app spending.

Amazon declined comment, and referred reporters to a letter that its vice president and associate general counsel, Andrew DeVore, wrote to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez dated July 1.

In the letter, DeVore protested the FTC's threat to file a lawsuit against the company if it did not agree to a consent order along the lines of the one reached with Apple in January.

DeVore also said the FTC threat to sue "leaves us no choice but to defend our approach in court."

The FTC said in its lawsuit that Amazon responded to complaints about unauthorized charges by requiring passwords for large purchases in 2012. That was extended to all purchases in 2013, but once a password has been entered, a purchase window remains open for up to an hour, meaning that further charges could be made without parents' knowledge, the complaint said.

The complaint quotes an Amazon official as saying shortly after the program began: "We believe that parents are excluded from the buying process for these apps."

Some parents said their children spent hundreds of dollars without their knowledge, the complaint said. Amazon bills for the in-app purchases and keeps 30 percent of the charges, the complaint added.

Amazon.com shares were down 0.7 percent at $327.48 in afternoon U.S. trading.

(Additional reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Ros Krasny, Bill Trott and David Gregorio)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Rising Star

Reuters Showcase

Cybercrime

Cybercrime

Hacker sentenced to 21 months in U.S. prison for $15 mln scheme.  Full Article 

Printed Instruments

Printed Instruments

3D printed instruments make sweet music in Sweden.  Video 

Tweet Debut

Tweet Debut

Britain's Queen Elizabeth sends her first tweet.  Full Article 

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Google bolsters artificial intelligence efforts, partners with Oxford.  Full Article 

Fighting For Workers

Fighting For Workers

Ralph Nader urges Apple to reduce buybacks, improve wages - WSJ.  Full Article 

Future Uncertainty

Future Uncertainty

Ericsson flags North America slowdown.  Full Article 

Microsoft Earnings

Microsoft Earnings

Microsoft sales beat Street hopes, cloud profits up.  Full Article 

Looking To Sell

Looking To Sell

HP seeking buyers for corporate-networking business in China - WSJ.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage