Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final order resolving allegations that Google unfairly billed consumers for in-app charges that were made by children without their parents’ consent. Google will set aside $19 million in restitution.
Google is required, as part of the settlement, to contact all consumers who had an in-app charge to inform them of the refund process over the next two weeks. Should the company provide less than $19 million in refunds within a year of the settlement’s approval, it will be required to remit the balance to the FTC to either remedy additional consumer complaints or, at its discretion, turn over what’s remaining to the U.S. Treasury.
The settlement, first announced in September but not immediately finalized, resolves allegations that Google billed consumers millions of dollars for charges incurred by children without consent from account holders. When Google first introduced in-app charges to the Google Play store in 2011, it billed for in-app charges without any password requirement. Even after requiring a password, the company failed to tell parents that entering one would then open a 30-minute window during which users could make unlimited charges without authorization, the FTC says.
The settlement requires Google to provide full refunds of unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children and to modify its billing practices to obtain express, informed consent from consumers before billing them for in-app charges. Customers must have the option to withdraw their consent at any time.