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Google Pays $19M Over Kids’ In-App Buying

Google will refund at least $19 million in in-app purchases by children that were “accidental or not authorized by the account holder,” according to a consent order that the FTC finalized last week.

Under the consent agreement, Google will make $19 million in reimbursements over the next month to users who didn’t approve of in-app spending by minors using their devices. Any of the $19 million that Google doesn’t refund will go to the FTC, and Google is required to pay any claims for which the search giant doesn’t find “sufficient credible evidence that the refund request is fraudulent.”

Google will also have to create a mechanism for “express, informed consent” for future purchases that can be revoked at any time. However, the company isn’t responsible for in-app purchases where Google doesn’t control the user interface.

The FTC said that Google made in-app purchasing available in 2011, but it didn’t require a password to make in-app purchases, making it possible for children — would can’t legally make an agreement to pay — to make purchases without the consent of parents or other adult device owners. When Google eventually added passwords, it failed to alert consumers that authentication would last for 30 minutes, so children could still make in-app purchases without consent, VentureBeat reported.

Google originally agreed to the deal in September, but it couldn’t be finalized until after a public comment period. The FTC signed a $32.5 million settlement with Apple in January, and sued Amazon in July, both over in-app purchases by minors.

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