Unlike Apple, Amazon Refuses to Settle Over In-App Purchases Made Without Parental Consent

Apple agreed to pay $32.5 million in refunds, but Amazon would rather defend itself in court.

by

Back in January, Apple agreed to pay at least $32.5 million in refunds to consumers to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint brought against the company related to the way in which iOS devices make it simple for children to spend real-world money on in-app purchases without parental consent.

The FTC filed the same complaint against Amazon, but the company is refusing to settle, and is instead choosing to defend its position in court.

According to a letter from Amazon to the FTC, the FTC filed the complaint against Amazon despite several weeks of “constructive meetings” between the two focusing on Amazon’s “customer-centric” approach to in-app purchasing.

“It’s an understatement to say that this response is deeply disappointing,” Amazon said. “The Commission’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.”

Amazon’s letter explains that it has continuously improved its experience since launch, but that even at launch, when customers told Amazon their kids had made purchases they didn’t want, it refunded those purchases. It also said that its practices were responsible and lawful, including prominent notice of in-app purchasing, effective parental controls, and real time notice of every in-app purchase.

“Pursuing litigation against a company whose practices were lawful from the outset and that already exceed the requirements of the Apple consent order makes no sense, and is an unfortunate misallocation of the Commission’s resources,” Amazon said.

In addition to announcing its Fire Phone last month, Amazon already sells and developed apps for its Kindle Fire tablet.

Should Amazon refund customers like Apple, or are the parents the ones responsible for their kids’ purchases? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg and Google+.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Discussion

101 comments
ggregd
ggregd

The difference, in case it isn't clear, is that Amazon refunded people when they complained about unauthorized purchases.  Apple said "sucks to be you."

lonewolf_de
lonewolf_de

There's a tremendous difference between doing what is legal as you can get away with it and doing what is morally right. Guess we know which is the driving force now at Amazon.

kachan64
kachan64

The real problem with Amazon is that all their paid apps are essentially from Google Play. If you want to use all features that Google provides, you basically can't. It like side-loading an app. That's why I never put credit card with Amazon on app purchases or at least I haven't brought anything yet.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

I hope they lose.  I hope microtransactions are somehow banned as a result of the court case.

Kinguard73
Kinguard73

I think people are TOO connected these days.

DanGleeSack
DanGleeSack

I have been a long time amazon user, and even subscribed for prime. They have wonderful and fast customer service, and will refund/replace without question. They will hand out free shipping and coupons for contacting support, even if it is your fault. They will upgrade shipping speed if there is a delay. I have had 0 issues with them anyways, besides faults with one of their shipping contractors, and even then they were willing to write a note under my account to not use that company for my orders. I'm sure if your request was reasonable, they would do something about it; most likely refund your account for store credit and delete the app from your account. I can see them not doing this if there was a way what you downloaded could be copied and stored for your useage beyond them removing it from your access.


It is the responsibility of the parents to secure their funds. Don't set automatic orders and stay signed in if your kids may have access to it. Simple stuff.

k2theswiss
k2theswiss

amazon or any other company is not your personal baby sitter,  You never have to put your credit card in if you don't want to

supercakefish
supercakefish

I'm sorry but it's the parent's fault. They really need to learn how technology works. Enable the in-built password protection that all devices have nowadays! It's really that simple! No excuses.

Raven-002
Raven-002

It's basically high way robbery. Yeah...Amazon needs to fight it. Amazon has amazing customer service and they always give refunds when a valid reason is there for it.


You know your phone has capabilities to easily purchase stuff online....so why not cut out those capabilities when your child is using the device? There's no excuse, parents clearly need to "level up."

chrisb2313
chrisb2313

When my daughter bought a few apps on accident Amazon gave me a refund without a problem and deleted the apps from my account. I think they have a good case since they are usually willing to issue a refund or return

bfa1509
bfa1509

What happens the purchased items when the parents get their money back? Surely the content isn't automatically deleted. I bet 99% of parents let their children get good mileage out of the content even though they got their money back.

sortajan
sortajan

Why the fuck should Apple or Amazon have to pay for parents that don't want to accept responsibility for the consequences of giving their kids access to their bank accounts?

TJSpyke
TJSpyke

The blame lies purely on the parents, maybe they should do their job. This is just like parents wanting to control what airs on TV because they don't want to watch what their kids are doing or using parental locks. Good for Amazon

gs_are_paid
gs_are_paid

I wonder what this article has to do with gaming.

svaubel
svaubel

Its a two way street. Amazon needs to be responsible, and parents need to not be stupid about giving a child a phone. Enable parental controls and password protect it. If you put your store account on there and do not secure it, its your fault. 

CnConrad
CnConrad

I rarely side with stupidity. But a vast majority of these in-app purchases are predatory and aimed to trick children into giving away their parents money.

If you side with the companies here you are basically blaming the victim. It's like saying well its your fault for parking there/leaving your door unlocked/walking down that alley/wearing that outfit.

If you are smart and make wise decisions bad things don't happen. Of course.

But, the society we live in doesn't allow for crucifying the victim.

tomservo51
tomservo51

Sounds like lawyers wanting more money. 

Vodoo
Vodoo

I agree with Amazon here. They  already refunded parents that got caught out there with their kids running wild on their devices. If anything, this commission should be looking at Google more than Amazon.

bobtheflounder
bobtheflounder

I am expecting my first child in November, so I can't quite chime into the "good parent vs bad parent" debate in it's entirety.  But my job as the tech-savy adult in the relationship once my wife and I have a kid will be to prevent this sort of thing from happening.  The problem may not be that people are "bad parents" it may just be that they don't understand the technology that they are handing over to their kid and how easy it can be to buy an extra life in candy crush if you don't change a few settings.  Or they understand the issue and just slip up one time in a moment of weakness.  How you deal with the situation once it happens, is a different story.  A reasonable person will write the company and ask for a refund and live with the consequences if this does or doesn't work.  A bad parent will sue a corporation because they didn't make their product idiot proof.

Nhoj1983
Nhoj1983

Amazon isn't refusing to to refund those parents... it's just saying that it ALREADY has all that's needed.  (in fact they acknowledge they already do refund those that ask for it.)  Frankly I agree.  My kindle fire hd is constantly being used by the kids in my house and they simply put have great parent controls. I've never been confused about what apps have possible purchasing either.  Time to stop micro managing an just let things be.

PS2fweak
PS2fweak

Mistakes shouldn't be meaningless. Those parents need to learn something or die off. This is the age we live in, and we want/need our technology to be an extension of ourselves. This means sometimes your child will buy something with your money, because you basically put your credit card in their hands, put them in the store, and told them to have fun while Mommy/Daddy ignores them for the next hour or so. That's what your phone is. If you put that power in their hands with little/no supervision, see what happens, and then make some adjustments to your parenting style. 


I want stuff to continue to be as intuitive as possible. If your kid can easily make purchases, we're headed in the right direction. Just pay better attention next time.

S001_PRIMAL
S001_PRIMAL

i didnt get my first phone till i was 17 years old, with my own money and i kept it in excellent condition for years (still works in fact). i got an iphone 2 years later again with my own money and gave my previous working phone to my uncle. i remember before i got my first phone, little kids in elementary school were walking with iphones and smart devices. i would constantly hear parents complain about how their kid breaks their phones or runs up the bill, etc, and the parents are stupid enough to buy a new one without ground rules or any method of teaching kids responsibility.  kids today get into trouble because they have no self control with their smart devices and on-top of that, parents willingly don't take the time to teach their kids. its unbelievable. and when these idiot parents get into trouble they blame the companies. the same situation goes with video games, movies and violence in the community. imagine how bad it will be in the teen parents generation.....

MoreThot
MoreThot

LMAO stupid Apple. Good job blowing $32 million because there's a lot of terrible ass parents out there that THINK they are good parents. 

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

Going to have to agree with Amazon here. Parents should really stop giving their kids expensive smart phones to play with especially if they are set up with their credit cards.

Kids should be playing with toys not phones and tablets. Almost every one I know just leaves their smart phone with their kid or toddler to shut them up.

It's unreasonable to ask a company to refund their lack of responsibility. 

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

Irresponsibility.  Plain and simple.  But it goes both ways.  I think it's just as irresponsible for a parent to hand their kids a tool that they can purchase things with on a whim as it is putting out rip-off games that charge you $100 for an in-app purchase like Super Monster Bros.

There should be a way to pre-load an amount of money on a device that you can spend on apps and then once it's gone, you can't purchase anything.  I think Nintendo has the right idea with the 3DS eShop.  I don't know much about this kind of thing, I don't purchase anything on my phone, but if there is an option like that then I don't know why this is even a thing other than parents with a lack of parenting skills.

rjbrush
rjbrush

Reading the comments below I'm guessing very few people are actually parents, let alone parents with young children such as 5-8yo that are screaming at you whilst you are in a restaurant as a family trying to finish your lunch because your children finished 10 minutes ago and are getting bored.  So what do you do, give them Angry Birds... that's safe right?  You've forgotten that you removed the "password on for every purchase" option, because it's annoying as you use the phone every day yourself, and your child uses the phone very infrequently.  So yea, occasionally it's possible to forget.. and guess what your child presses random buttons and makes a purchase.  It happened to me once... an email to Roxio.. and they refunded, no hassle. And yes.. my children have lots of Lego, books and other "good parent" stuff.

toddx77
toddx77

I understand that sometimes mistakes happen and it is nice if companies give you a refund, but this is really on the parents.  Kids should consider themselves lucky too.  Having their parents go sue a company to get the money back, please.  If back in the 90's I took my parents credit card and called one of those strategy guide hotlines for $9.95 a minute my parents wouldn't go sue for a refunded.  They would ground me and make me pay them back lol.

crushbrain
crushbrain

So basically Amazon is fighting this in court because they believe they have already given refunds where it was appropriate. I don't blame them for fighting it on those grounds. Whether they will win or not I can't say.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

I am no parent, so I don't know all the difficulties, but it seems to me it's makes no sense to place the burden of familial financial responsibility on a business as matter of policy. Now, if Amazon (or any) apps tracked the unique copy it sold to a child, and had options in-app to make purchases without providing financial credentials, and then sent a bill to the child and by extension the parents, then I think we have some fraud going on; the initial purchasing contract may not even be enforceable. On the other hand, if children regularly have access to and abuses their parents financial credentials, that's a problem with American families. If children regularly abuse their own financial credentials, that may be a problem with our society that provides improper financial access to minors. On this rare occasion, I stand with Amazon on an issue that is less consumer-friendly, though I guess if Amazon were forced to take action on its end, I may end up paying for it some other way.

Derekuda
Derekuda

While I do think a large portion of this is related to bad parenting, I'm still bitter about Amazon increasing the cost of Prime. So I say, go get em FTC!!!

LOL!!

bfa1509
bfa1509

What the fk ever happened to lego and climbing trees and climbing trees made of lego and making lego out of trees? These are the only things children under the age of 10 should be concerned with.


Fun - 200 000 BC - 2007. RIP

somberfox
somberfox

There are options to globally disable in-app purchases. No excuse for bad parenting.

Barighm
Barighm

@TJSpyke But you're assuming they're giving their credit card to the kid though. What if Amazon's products automatically save the credit card number and all the kid has to do is select the "buy now" button? In fact, they do. How do you stop a kid from pressing that button and how does the parent know that button exists? That's not the parents' fault. And if you've spent any time in customer relations, you will know that no, the vast majority of people do not take the time to carefully learn every aspect of their phone and you'd be crazy to think they would, but be my guest and tell an angry customer that. Not as easy when you don't have the autonomy of the internet to protect you.


Now, if the game didn't automatically charge credit cards and required the kid to ask for the credit card at every purchase, THEN parents may have a better idea of what's going on.

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

@gs_are_paid 

it has a lot to do with what developers and publishers think of the "new shift" in gaming preferences. Stupid children buy microtransactions with their stupid parents' money, and everyone thinks that this is the way the market is heading, that's how customers want it. More expensive microtransactions and more "free-to-play" games. It has a lot to do with gaming, you see. 32.5 million dollars in refunds, but they still continue on supporting this crap because a lot more parents don't even care. I let a kid of a friend play on my tablet once and a few minutes later he asks me why can't he use power-ups. I never wanted to punch a kid in the face until that day.

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

@CnConrad 

I don't agree with you. By analogy, the society we live in promotes "parking there/leaving your door unlocked/walking down the dark alley wearing that outfit", and you're kinda assuming kids paying for in-app purchases, not even promoted by Amazon or Apple themselves, is very similar to murder or robbery.

Well, I ask you, are you a frikin sheep? Do you have to do whatever the society tells you to do? Oh, okay then, it's your and your kid's freedom to buy as many in-app purchases as you please, don't pay attention to what your kid is spending your money on, but don't blame others for what happens with your money.

OldDirtyCR
OldDirtyCR

@CnConrad This isn't a blind "Are you for companies or for citizens?" argument. It's a "Does amazon deserve to be taken to court/pay huge 'fines'" argument. I don't have all the facts but from what Amazon says they are already doing everything correctly. So assuming Amazon is telling the truth, then we should be siding with Amazon on this.

Ayato_Kamina_1
Ayato_Kamina_1

@bobtheflounder We live in a society where everyone wants something for nothing, and nothing is ever that person's fault. I mean suing a company for giving you coffee which you burn yourself with BECAUSE the container doesn't say "Caution:Hot" is all you need to know really.

Ayato_Kamina_1
Ayato_Kamina_1

@S001_PRIMAL Same parents who say "I can't believe the level of violence they put in games that my child plays" as they buy their children rated M games like GTA... smh. 

wallacom
wallacom

@MoreThot Pocket change for Apple. Plus, they come under a good light when they refunded customers. I understand what you are saying, but I'm sure Apple saw it as a marketing opportunity. 

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

@jinzo9988 Google Play has prepaid cards you can buy and redeem to add credit to your account, I'm assuming Amazon and Apple would have similar methods for payment.

jeremiah06
jeremiah06

@rjbrush Game boy exists... Leap frog... random cheap 108 brick games... They start screaming or get bored then give them an actual child's game... Your phone is your credit card... If they start misbehaving in a store you'll just give them your wallet to shut them up then be pissed they spent your money? That's stupid whether you get a refund or not...

aegis_kleais
aegis_kleais

@rjbrush If a beating is out of the question (and you should hopefully never take it off the counter when it comes down to it), then the fault here is yours. You made the mistake. (Not saying I don't, we all make mistakes, in fact, I just recently made a mistake that is going to cost me $200+, but hey, it was my fault. I could point fingers at other people, but, IMO, that's an act of cowardice)

You need to associate the phone as a credit card. They may be family, but if you want them to have a gaming device, get them a tablet, connect it to separate accounts, and then learn the software in order to lock the system down to prevent purchases (don't attach to monetary sources).

Ayato_Kamina_1
Ayato_Kamina_1

@somberfox Well I do think it's a little harsh to call it bad parenting... letting your kid get drunk and vandalising somewhere is bad parenting. Letting your kid use your phone and racking up some in app purchases just suggests ignorance with technology to me. 

Either way the onus is on the parent so I think this is a silly lawsuit to try and bring against Amazon.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

@Barighm  Smart kids find out all of their parents card numbers (and passwords).  Smart kids.

B0NES96
B0NES96

@xsonicchaos @CnConrad But assuming that Amazon is telling the truth, Amazon refunded all purchases when parents called saying that their kids bought it without parental consent. So there's no reason for this to go to court.