Is Amazon responsible for the charges kids rack up making in-app purchases?

Jul 11, 2014

Amazon Unveils Its First Smartphone founder and CEO Jeff Bezos presents the company’s first smartphone, the Fire Phone, on June 18, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. ; Credit: David Ryder/Getty Images

The FTC is suing Amazon over in-app purchases in children’s gaming apps. In-app purchases have frequently been a frustrating issue for parents, many of whom see hundreds of dollars in unapproved charges when their children buy things within a tablet app. Complaints say that children often don’t realize that they are making real purchases when they buy gold coins, special character outfits, or acorns, but for parents, the cost is real. Even after Amazon began requiring passwords for purchases over $20, customer criticism steadily rolled in.

The FTC claims that Amazon’s process for refunding purchases is too difficult to negotiate. The suit against Amazon seeks a repayment to customers and new rules about regulating in-app purchases and takes a very similar approach to a suit against Apple on the same topic from earlier this year. Amazon has expressed disappointment with the charges, saying that the cases are different, and that the FTC’s  “unwillingness to depart from the precedent it set with Apple despite our very different facts leaves us no choice but to defend our approach in court.”

What should be the rules for in-app purchases? Is it ethical to include easy exchanges of money in children’s games? Will this case play out like Apple’s in-app suit settlement, or are Amazon’s policies different enough to set a new precedent?


Cecilia Kang, technology reporter for the Washington Post 


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