Google is the latest company to face federal charges for failing to prevent children from racking up big bills for their parents.
The company agreed Thursday to refund at least $19 million to consumers to settle a case with the Federal Trade Commission.
According to the agency, Google unfairly billed consumers whose children made unauthorized purchases using mobile apps downloaded from the Google Play store. The in-app purchases for virtual items could range from 99 cents to $200. Google failed to properly obtain the consent of the account holder before completing the purchases, the FTC said.
In-app purchases are a relatively new feature, but have become a big source of revenue. Forcing companies to step up protections against unwanted purchases has been a major focus for the FTC this year. Apple already agreed to a $32.5 million settlement with the FTC, while Amazon plans to fight the charges in court.
"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," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement.
According to the complaint, Google allowed users to make in-app purchases without any password authorization in 2011. In 2012, Google introduced a pop-up password window, the FTC said, but it did not include information about the actual purchase.