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back to article Bezos house 'on FIRE': Amazon in-app kiddy megabuck charge storm

The US Federal Trade Commission (FCC) has filed a lawsuit against mighty online etailer Amazon, claiming the business's in-app purchase system wrongly charged consumers millions of dollars. The suit also claims Bezos & Co knew about the problem and did nothing to rectify it. "As internal emails uncovered in our investigation …

Anonymous Coward

Utter madness, if parents can't monitor their kids then that is up to them.

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Don't blame parents

This is not a case of lax parenting.

After Apple had been successfully sued by the FTC for sleazy in-app purchase practices and accepted a huge fine, refunds and 20 years of FTC "special oversight", Amazon decided it wanted in on that pie and started their own in-app purchases. AFTER! But even then, parental consent applied to only individual purchases over $20. Individual in-app purchases over $20 are rare. Most of the in-app purchases are in the order of 25 cents or fifty cents, but hundreds of such purchases can add up to amounts far in excess of $20 without parental consent or triggering a password. It is especially sleazy that Amazon encouraged developers to target children with things like brightly colored "buy" buttons and buttons that look like teddy bears and candy. That Bezos knew of this sleazy practice is apparently documented in the hundreds of internal emails supplied to the FTC by a whistleblower.

Bezos (aka Bozo) has stated that he will give NO refunds because of the FTC suit, and will accept NO settlement or oversight from the FTC and will sue parents individually if they do not pay up. So don't blame the parents. Blame one of the sleaziest companies in the business world --- Amazon.

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Unhappy

Re: Don't blame parents

Actually, scratch my comment further down. I've lost all sympathy with the "I gave [app store] my credit card details and then they started charging it" crowd.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't blame parents

"This is not a case of lax parenting."

So what do we call it - Bad parenting, negligent parenting, careless parenting, reckless parenting, ill-informed parenting, simply lack of parenting?

Bottom line is they handed something to their little darlings which caused harm and are now claiming to not have known nor understood that harm could be caused. Well whose failing is that?

Do they also tell their kids to go play on the internet or the street outside their homes with no oversight at all believing that's an entirely safe thing to do and then blame others when they find it isn't?

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All I have to say is that I'm happy that my ipad and iphone allow me to turn in app purchases off and protect it behind a password. And even when I turn them on, I can require the password to be entered every single time a purchase is made.

If it wasn't for that there would be no way that my kids would be allowed near those devices.

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Just remember apple didn't put it there by choice. They went to court to keep that function from happening and lost. Heck, they are STILL fighting it.

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FAIL

AMAZON whose raison d'etre is ...

deceptive consumer practices.

Why the surprise?

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I imagine many of these parents weren't aware that there was such a thing as 'in app purchasing' until they got the first bill.

It's wrong (though tempting) to assume others have the same knowledge and abilities you do.

I am not a parent but I sympathise with those who are trying to bring their kids up in a world they don't fully understand. I'm not being condescending - I understand most IT technology but there is a lot in this world I am utterly clueless about.

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Yes, most parents are focused on making sure that the kids are playing games that are age appropriate, and safe, They will not be aware that apparently respectable companies are targeting their kids with tempting/essential/sneaky* purchases to let them play the "child friendly" games.

*Sneaky. I was, myself, playing a newly installed game (Bubble Witch, I think) a few days ago on my Hudl, when it started to launch a credit card purchase window, without my consciously doing anything, which only fell over because it couldn't find a vald cc number.

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The way I get around it...

...I disable the wireless. If the game can't work without an internet connection, they don't have it.

That said, mine are younger, so it's easier to nobble the tablet, older kids, not so easy.

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Don't hook it to a credit card

If you give your kids a tablet of any description that is connected to a credit or debit card and they are not 100% supervised then you are asking for trouble.nn

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Bronze badge

Re: Don't hook it to a credit card

I suspect a lot of parents wouldn't even realise that a credit card they used for some ordinary purchase online was hooked into an account thereafter.

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WTF?

eh??

Why would you accept oversight, surely it is permanently there? That is like saying you won't accept the law of the police, or the ownership by the bank with your mortgage etc? Sounds madness.

Still good to see some action against in app purchase stupidity. :)

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Facepalm

I'm generally quite sympathetic to people who get stung by their kids racking up charges like this,

but we'll have to draw a line under it sometime, surely? Hopefully, once the FTC (or whoever is heading this) gets done with all the big providers, the refund processes will stay in place and this problem will go away (and the wilfully ignorant can carry on neglecting their kids in peace).

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on the contrary...

I have a Kindle Fire I purchased for my son when he was 2yrs old, a year ago now. The Kindle has a special mode called Freetime, which requires a parental control password. I would agree it needs to be set to not allow any purchases at all during the time it is in Freetime mode. I have not had any issues so far even with the main password that is by the current design. But I do watch my son very closely to make sure he doesn't figure out the password by some odd luck.

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Flame

Amazon needs a good bollocking

In addition to this scam, Amazon has also been running another one. When you were buying something, a pop-up would appear and ask you if you wanted to try their "prime" service for 30 days for free, after which they'd bill you $100 a year. Unfortunately, on this pop-up, the "YES" box was checked by default, and was very small and located far to the left and low down on the screen so it was not very visible. On the other hand, the button to just close the box (and accept the "yes" default) was large and easy to see. Most people just want any pop-up gone so they can complete their transaction and move on, so many clicked the close button without realizing that they had just signed up to be billed $100. I am paranoid enough about this sort of thing that I read it carefully and wan't fooled. However, I know people who were tricked -- and then had $100 removed from their bank accounts without proper warning. One friend of mine got a bunch of NSF fees due to this malicious and dodgy behavior on Amazon's part. Are they so broke they have to resort to this sort of crap to survive?

I used to really like Amazon, but this sort of shite is just too much. I'm off them now, and buy everything from other vendors. I hope the feds really walk it to them and most of their loyal customers bail, so they really DO suffer.

What is it about human nature that makes companies that started on a foundation of great customer service just about always evolve into giants that treat their customers like a shark treats its lunch?

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Coat

Re: Amazon needs a good bollocking

"What is it about human nature..."

Not humans; accountants.

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Re: Amazon needs a good bollocking

I too am finding Amazon less than a lovely experience these days. I have to be extremely vigilant not to be tricked when I am in a hurry, and I know that have smaller vendors by the short and curlies and are very happy to keep tightening the grip. As they have extraordinary heft in the marketplace, the playing field is not level. If I can get products from anywhere else, and I usually can, I tend to shop there. I am also increasingly uncomfortable buying from companies that use trapped labour. I would never shop at Walmart or Primark (the latter using pretty much slave labour) and Amazon is not so far away from these models. Poor people have fewer choices of employment, so again there's isn't level playing field. My saving a few bucks here and there is not worth it when I look at what I am supporting.

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