We have to protect our children from inappropriate content online but we also have to protect ourselves. Thankfully most developers give us tools to keep us from unexpected content and unwanted charges. We learned today what happens if a developer neglects those protections. They pay.
Amazon is in the news today for a case that began in 2011. Thousand of parents were shocked to find that their kids had racked up in-app purchases that they hadn’t known about. Amazon made $86 million dollars on in-app purchases but it’s estimated that 42 percent of that was from unapproved purchases made by kids in the app store. The Federal Trade Commission said that Amazon’s system allowed for unlimited charges on apps and the courts sided with them in April of 2016, saying their methods of informing parents of purchases was “not sufficient.”
The software store on Kindle simply didn’t have a password protection setting for their in-app purchases. This is what got them in to trouble. Children could log in to make purchases on these apps and there was nothing built in to stop them. Shortly after complaints started coming in, Amazon updated software to include a password and had already refunded money but the FTC said that wasn’t enough.
The courts decided today that Amazon had to pay back the money to parents directly. In order to receive re-payments parents must submit individual claims. They did say that Amazon must notify parents affected of the availability of the refunds.
I always recommend setting your in-app purchase password and keeping that password a secret. You can’t ever tell when some freemium game is going to convince your child that they need that cool hat for their character or that if they buy that ten thousand pack of rubies they can build their village faster. We have to use our common sense because sometimes our children don’t.