back to article Kids racking up huge in-app bills on Kindles, Android is all your fault, Amazon – US court

A US federal court has ruled against Amazon in its case with the FTC over youngsters breaking the bank with in-app purchases. The Seattle US Western District Court found the retail giant liable for charges children had racked up making in-game purchases on their parents' mobile devices without requiring the proper …

  1. Mage Silver badge


    Impossible to give your eInk Kindle or Kobo eReader to a Kid, as is or loan it.

    if you remove the account you can't even add free eBooks and the EXISTING ebooks, bought or free, even if loaded via USB are deleted.

    You can't use newer Kindle eInk or Kobo eInk eReaders AT ALL, not even add free books via USB without creating an account.

    Only solution seems to be to create an eMail account for kid / friend (Kobo) with no credit card. Amazon seems to need a credit card and no way to disable small kindle book purchases via WiFi or 3G (so only give kid WiFi model and keep wiFi keysecret, but they might use library / friends house?).

    So the way accounts / purchases work on eInk Kobo or Kindle you buy, even for your own writing or public domain books is unacceptable today. Esp. Amazon. Kobo, at least you can create an account with no payment option.

    Don't lend your Kindle / Kobo to ANYONE!

    Back up all the books via Calibre / USB, as ANYONE my fiddle with settings, remove your account (no security PIN on Kobo) and thus delete everything!

    The password protected Kids Mode on Kindle hides all free books, everything not purchased from Amazon. It's USELESS.

    1. ma1010 Silver badge

      Re: Issues

      My own Kindle is wifi only, and the wifi stays turned OFF. I do everything via USB. Don't need any "cloud" or Amazon snooping on what I'm reading or not reading, and I can manage my books just fine without their help. It may help that it's an old Kindle 3 and not one of the newer "improved" ones.

    2. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: Issues

      "Only solution seems to be to create an eMail account for kid / friend (Kobo) with no credit card. Amazon seems to need a credit card and no way to disable small kindle book purchases via WiFi or 3G"

      I bought my mother a Kindle as a Christmas present a few years ago, and her book purchases are done by me buying her gift vouchers. I'm fairly sure (but not 100%) that originally she had to put her credit card details into her Amazon account even to use the vouchers, which we removed again once each was used up.

      If it was like that then somewhere down the line it has changed, though, because with the most recent one, her card wasn't necessary.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Issues

        A friend and I share a Kindle as we only use it on our different holidays. At first she paid me for the books she downloaded - but we didn't really want all our books in one collection. Then she discovered that you could set up a "partner" account. This she duly did - ticking the boxes to use her own credit card details.

        When she bought her next book it was duly downloaded into her collection. However the confirmation email was sent to my account - and my credit card was charged. She still hasn't worked out what went wrong.

    3. Law

      Re: Issues

      Parental controls on fire TV are just as big a joke.

      As a parent I have 3 options for limiting kids on the device:

      1 - Dont limit, just full access to all purchases and all age ratings

      2 - limit purchases, but still give full access to all prime content and paid for content is mixed in (but requires pin)

      3 - require a pin for everything. Even kids TV.

      I sent them countless suggestions a year ago, kids only mode ala Netflix, at the very least add a 4th option to require pin for anything rated 12 and over.

      After a year of "improvements" what do we get instead? They add banners at the top (for bloody shows like Vikings and walking dead). They add in trailers at the start of some videos now too. Oh, and they banned firestarter this month... So the solution I had found to at least steer kids away from mature content (auto load into Netflix on boot) now doesn't work.

      They've taken a very slick and promising product, made it less family friendly, more annoying, and more expensive.

    4. JLV Silver badge

      Re: Issues

      Interesting. Because I was thinking exactly of the Kindle on-device book purchases while reading this article.

      I agree with your points, but am still not losing sleep over it.

      I actually gifted a Kindle to a very good friend living in the Caribbean (at a location with few bookstores). Initially I thought to just give him the device, but then I decided to just give it and leave it hooked up to my account. Like I said, few books to be had over there.

      One possible remedy is that I get purchase notifications by email. I suspect it would be easy enough to cancel the purchase within a reasonably short time. I did that one time with a Ruby book that was just a plain ripoff (glowing fake reviews, horrible content). Amazon didn't ask anything about the why, they just cancelled. So, if you are worried about your kids, you could just flag the purchase notification emails as high-priority/to review.

  2. ma1010 Silver badge


    Amazon has a lot of things going for it, and generally good customer service. However, they have some total twats working there, too. This isn't their only scam. About a year ago, when you bought something, a box would pop up offering a "trial" subscription to Prime ($100 USD/year). The nasty bit is that the "YES" choice was checked by default, and it was small. When trying to do anything with a computer, most people just want rid of any damn pop-up that gets in the way, so they hit the close button. With the default still marked "YES."

    So a month or so later, many got a little surprise in the form of a $100 charge on their credit cards (if they used credit cards) or bank accounts (if they used debit cards). I avoided this personally because my paranoia drove me to carefully read the box before I dismissed it, but I know people who were hooked this way, including to the point of getting NSF charges on their checking accounts due to funds unexpectedly missing thanks to this scam. To give what little credit is due, Amazon did refund the $100 charges upon demand.

    I'd think Amazon make enough money doing honest business without resorting to deceptive business practices, but I guess I'd be wrong. Bezos really needs to give his business a close, personal look and do a bit of housecleaning.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GOOD!

      Nearly got caught out by that too.

      You have to be very careful at the checkout to make sure you don't select the "free next day delivery" option and they seem to be making it harder to avoid selecting it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    App stores are a scam aimed at children, and a backdoor to their parents credit card, end of. It's no coincidence the app store is full of crap with cartoony style icons, and brightly coloured sweets.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When my neighbour first had cable TV in about 2000 - there were "games" channels that her young son played quite often. They were 50p a pop for only a few minutes - which soon mounted up.

      The SegaWorld video tank battle games were similar. £1 for a very short time - and a kid could easily spend tens of pounds very quickly.

      I remember being at Blackpool on holiday in the early 1960s and getting somewhat addicted to something probably derived from war surplus kit. Basically a rear gunner trainer using real film of action - with total predictability of where the attacking planes came from in every game. At 6d a pop that soon became expensive - as my usual pocket money was only 1/- a week. Once I achieved the maximum score I lost interest in it.

      I think those experiences have made me very wary of SaaS products.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    open and shut

    ... given that Amazon have patented "one click purchasing".

    1. JLV Silver badge

      Re: open and shut

      Hey, isn't that thing due for expiry yet? 17 years in the US, IIRC and it seems like this abuse of a patent has been around forever.

  5. Domino

    Not a new problem..

    My parents had to worry about their phone bill racking up thanks to a modem and C64 MUD :)

  6. DaddyHoggy

    My 14yo has her own Android mobile (my wife's old One M7), a tablet (my old Hudl) and a laptop (a recently 'upgraded' to Win 10 Lenovo G580 which she bought herself). She also has an Osper card (a pre-pay Mastercard which we load her allowance onto each month). My wife sees all her purchases and can and does turn off Internet purchasing.

    Amazon, Google and MS are all happy because they all have a Credit Card (as they see it) registered with them - but my daughter can't buy anything on her card without asking (for 'online purchasing' to be turned back on (temporarily, or for a single transaction).

    It's worked so well, we've just done the same for our 9yo (who bought Minecraft herself from MS Store with her Osper Card, but then my wife turned the card back off, so she can't make in-app purchases)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In app purchases are a scam, pure and simple, and need to be outlawed.

    A few days ago, my six year old son brought his android pad to me with a problem he didn't understand. It turned out that the car game he was playing was trying to take a payment of 79 quid for a new paint job or something. Fortunately my card details have never been, and never will be, entered into the system. There is absolutely no excuse for that kind of functionality in a game targeted at young children.

  8. Alistair Silver badge

    @ Mage:

    Kobo over here, no issues with ever needing any CC info, but then we've never plugged the wife into the store. She doesn't need it since we've over 36,000 volumes on disk already, and in the cases where we get the ebook with the dead tree version, it only needs an email account. Everything gets loaded to it over usb with appropriate free ebook manipulation software that one should not mention. *cough* calibre *cough* [1]

    {I just want my old LCD based ebook alive again, hate that eink/paperwhite crap}

    My 9 year old has an android phone (no sim yet, since he doesn't wander that far that often), which was the 19 year old's old phone, stuffed with crap, but we've wiped anything related to email addresses or debit cards. He has 3 paid for games on there, and since I'm a bastard, and my eldest is learning, it runs CM12 and we removed all the google play* stuff. No purchasing connections at all.

    All that said, it is without a doubt in my mind that *all* the "app store" type operations are out there to teabag the victims with 'microcharges' and 'in app purchases' and 'flow through charges'. Its not like they are operating charities, they will find more, newer, faster, more frequent ways to charge you for anything they can think of. At least in this case the law is finally starting to catch up, defining some of the authentications and authorizations that need to be in place.

    [1] F23 dnf search calibre. !!! interesting.

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