In the last few months the use of in-app purchases has come under a great deal of close scrutiny.  Headlines over Apple paying out a fortune regarding the issues caused waves in the industry. Now it looks as though rival Google is to pay at least $19m (£11.6m) to settle a formal complaint that was issued over unauthorised in-app purchases.

The complaint came from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  They said Google should actively do more to caution people regarding how much money they were actually spending.  A large portion of the purchases was made by children keen to advance in popular smartphone games.

The settlement will require the tech giant to inform all those who made in-app purchases regarding getting a refund.

In a recent statement, the FTC said that Google broke its prohibition on unfair commercial practices because it took payments from parents for charges incurred by their children.

The cost of in-app purchases can spiral out of control.

The cost of in-app purchases can spiral out of control.

FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez said, “As more Americans embrace mobile technology, it’s vital to remind companies that time-tested consumer protections still apply, including that consumers should not be charged for purchases they did not authorise.”

The FTC said some families faced the daunting task of paying hundreds of dollars for items purchased by their children, The FTC also said although Google has altered its in-app payment policies from the early days of ‘no verification required’, it was still not doing enough to inform people on how much they would pay.

In a statement, Google said it had already made more changes to improve the way people are told about the purchases they make. The FTC settlement demands that people give explicit, informed permission for payments.

“We’re glad to put this matter behind us so we can focus on creating more ways for people to enjoy all the entertainment they love,” Google added. The settlement only covers payments made via the US Google Play store.

As I previously mentioned, Google is not the first to settle a grievance relating to in – app purchases payments.  Apple’s settlement involved repaying $31.5m to those who received unexpected bills.

The FTC has also sued online retailer, Amazon over unauthorised in-app purchases made by children using applications from its Android store, but rather than settle the case, Amazon has said it will fight it.

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[Image via businesskorea]