Amazon may be forced to refund kid-made in-app purchases

Kindle App
The FTC initiates a legal battle over coins, stars and acorns

Amazon said it was ready for a legal fight over in-app purchases, and now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is giving it exactly what it asked for.

The commission announced it's seeking a court order that would force Amazon to give refunds back to customers for unauthorized charges.

The court case stems from a complaint dating back to November 2011 that alleged apps purchased from the Kindle store allowed children to purchase coins, stars, acorns and other virtual items. Parents felt they were unfairly forced to pay for charges on their credit card bill made without their consent.

"Even Amazon's own employees recognized the serious problem its process created," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez charged in a release. "We are seeking refunds for affected parents and a court order to ensure that Amazon gets parents' consent for in-app purchases."

You want fight? You got a fight!

The FTC received a complaint in March 2012 outlining how Amazon had updated its IAP system to only require password entry for purchases over $20. Then in early 2013, another complaint reported the in-app purchase process required a password while also opening a 15-minute window for the user to buy anything they tapped on.

Amazon submitted a letter to the FTC last week warning the commission it would pursue legal action if the commission continued its demands over in-app purchases. The e-tailer argued it's already put in enough protections to prevent kids from further making unauthorized purchases.

However the FTC fired back, noting Amazon didn't change its in-app charge framework until June 2014. The tweak made it so users could only make purchases with informed consent. The commission claimed the web warehouse only made the change after the FTC decided to file suit.

Never settle

This will be the second case the FTC has pursued in regards to inadvertent in-app purchases. Apple decided to settle with the agency earlier this year, handing over $32.5 million to 37,000 customers, rather than pursue a legal scuffle such as Amazon's current predicament.

Amazon claims it's worked hard to correct the problems with its IAP system and won't settle as Apple did. The FTC is just as adamant in its pursuit to see Amazon pay significant fines to refund the customers it's wronged.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.