Amazon will refund $70M for kids’ in-app charges

Parents whose children made Amazon purchases on mobile apps without their permission will begin getting their money back, the Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday. And it turns out that money could amount to more than $70 million for those charges. 

The refunds apply to purchases made from November 2011 to May 2015, and bring closure to a nearly three-year legal battle surrounding complaints that the tech giant made it too easy for children to make the purchases.

Federal regulators filed a lawsuit in July 2014 saying Amazon charged parents millions of dollars of unauthorized payments for what’s known as “in-app purchases,” virtual items offered within mobile games such as Candy Crush Saga, The Washington Post reported. (Amazon’s founder, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)

In an April 2016 ruling, a federal judge granted the FTC a summary judgment that found Amazon responsible for the charges. While entering a password linking an Amazon account to a new device, “a reasonable consumer unaware of the possibility of in-app purchases would not assume she was authorizing unforeseen charges,” U.S. District Judge John Coughenour wrote in his order.

Last month, the FTC and Amazon agreed to end their litigation, clearing the way for the refunds to begin. All consumers eligible for the refunds should have received an email from Amazon.

It was the latest in lengthy FTC investigations into similar in-app purchases on devices running software by Apple, Amazon and Google. In 2014, Apple agreed to a $32.5 million settlement and Google settled charges and agreed to repay $19 million to consumers whose children made such unauthorized mobile purchases through the Android app store.

The company began receiving complaints about the unauthorized charges after the launch of the Amazon app store in 2011. Amazon has since then changed the in-app purchase interface and added more parental controls, while also giving refunds to some consumers who complained.

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