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Amazon found liable for unauthorized in-app purchases made by children

A federal judge has found Amazon's attempts to disclose the possibility of in-app charges within "free" apps insufficient.

Back in 2014 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against Amazon after finding fault with the way the retailer implemented in-app purchases in apps aimed at children. 

At the time, the FTC alleged that Amazon had unlawfully received millions of dollars as the result of accidental purchases made by children playing freemium games and apps. 

"Amazon offers many children's apps in its app store for download to mobile devices such as the Kindle Fire," reads the FTC's original 2014 complaint. 

"Amazon's setup allowed children playing these kids' games to spend unlimited amounts of money to pay for virtual items within the apps such as 'coins,' 'stars,' and 'acorns' without parental involvement."

Now, almost two years on, a federal judge has granted the FTC's request for a summary judgment against Amazon

The judge's ruling was based on the amount of complaints Amazon received from consumers attempting to recoup cash accidentally spent by their children on IAPs. 

According to the judge, Amazon's attempts to disclose the possibility of in-app charges within "free" apps were not sufficiently informative. 

Further representations from the FTC and Amazon will now be required to determine the precise amount of monetary relief Amazon owes consumers as a result of its unlawful practices. 

“We are pleased the federal judge found Amazon liable for unfairly billing consumers for unauthorized in-app purchases by children,” said FTC chairwoman, Edith Ramirez. 

“We look forward to making a case for full refunds to consumers as a result of Amazon’s actions.”

This isn't the first time the FTC has come out on top against an industry heavyweight. In January 2014, iPhone maker Apple was forced to modify its billing practices and dish out $32.5 million in refunds after the FTC called out the company for allowing deceptive IAPs to roam unchecked on the App Store.

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