Last year, Amazon was found guilty of illegally billing some of its customers. Specifically, the issue was that many parents had been charged for purchases made, without their consent, by their children. This week, the company has agreed to end its efforts to appeal that ruling and give those parents their money back. The amount—more than $70 million—covers in-app purchases made by kids between November 2011 and May 2016.
A federal judge found Amazon guilty of failing to warn customers that in-app charges could arise after an initial free download of a game. Similar actions against Google and Apple in recent years also resulted in large refunds—$19 million and $32 million respectively.*
The FTC’s original complaint, which was filed in 2014, alleged that Amazon’s apps geared toward children gave kids unlimited access to their parents’ credit cards: “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 agency wrote. Initially, no passwords were required for children to charge their parents’ credit cards to buy extras while playing games. But even when Amazon updated its system to require a password for such charges, there was still a window of time (up to an hour long) after the password had been entered when a child could buy something without their parent’s knowledge.