One of the biggest elephants in the in-app gaming room is finally coming to light, courtesy of the US and South Korean governments.
Last week the FTC sued Amazon for claims that it allowed kids to buy digital goods via the Kindle Fire without their parents’ permission. As reported by Gigaom:
According to the FTC, Amazon employees stated in internal emails that unexpected kids’ purchases were “clearly causing problems for a large percentage of our customers” and that the situation was a “near house on fire.” The agency also alleges that one mother claims her daughter racked up $358 in unauthorized charges, and that children too young to read had bought goods by “randomly pushing buttons.”
Apple settled on similar accusations for $32 million earlier this year. Amazon, however, plans to fight the FTC in court, which is surprising given their proactive programs to create a safe zone for kids with Kindle FreeTime. What goodwill Amazon has gained by creating a kids friendly consumer product, a legal court battle may taketh away.
Speaking of Apple and Google, expect more changes to make refunds easier with in-app purchases in the future, courtesy of South Korea. Though Apple and Google have made it easier in the past year to get refunds on in-app purchases, the official terms of services for the App Store and Google Play state that in-app purchases are non-refundable.
South Korea has ordered a change in this policy. For now, Google plans only to make this change in South Korea, but Apple may apply their changes globally.
Details are forthcoming. Regardless, there is momentum around making it easier to refund accidentally in-app purchases, especially by children.
I know some of you out there would say that safeguards are in place to stop kids from buying in-app purchases and hundred dollar bills are the result of bad parenting. To which I would counter, one day you will procreate and have kids of your own, and discover how easy it is for kids to get around such safeguards. The best approach for Apple, Google, and Amazon is to keep it real and have a refundable policy in place.
The big question I often wonder is how much of the in-app purchase economy is the result of kids buying items by mistake. My guess is a lot more than we think. Over the next year, we’ll soon find out.