back to article Amazon snubs FTC: We'll see you in court over kids' in-app cash blowouts

Amazon has said it won't acquiesce to the Federal Trade Commission's plans to punish it for not preventing kids from running up in-app purchases on mummy and daddy's credit card. The FTC is seeking a punitive fine from Amazon, similar to the one levied on Apple. The agency says Amazon wasn't quick enough to crack down on …

  1. Dan Paul

    Great!!!

    About time someone stood up to the blackmailers from the FTC. Just another group of scum.

    1. Steven Roper
      Flame

      Re: Great!!!

      More like, about time elected governments started roping in these parasitic money-grubbing corporations that think they're above the fucking law.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Great!!!

        Socialistic much?

        1. Steven Roper

          @Destroy All Monsters

          Capitalist much?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        Re: Great!!!

        What law are they above?

        Mummy and daddy click the "yes please store my credit card details and use them for app purchases"

        Then hand over tablet, with saved details in them and are surprised that little kiddy clicks yes when they get the offer of an extra life?

        My kids have their own tablet, no card details stored (the wifi is not even enabled) and when they run out of lives on Candy crush, Frozen or whatever, then that's it.

        They accept it and it's a great way of limiting time on the device.

        If they use my phone, again no details are stored.

        Is that bloody hard to put in the details or a password each time you want to buy something? If you need to top up every 10 minutes, you either need to give up, or stop buying freemium games.

        1. Tom 35 Silver badge

          Buy?

          stop buying freemium games

  2. Mitoo Bobsworth

    Easy access?

    Why do kids in the USA appear to have such easy access to Mum & Dads credit cards in the first place? That Amazon doesn't really care who's spending whose money is one issue, but if kids are racking up their parents' credit debt, with or without their consent, then I would think Mum & Dad need to confront that directly.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Easy access?

      Exactly. Here the kids mainly have their own accounts and have to finance their purchases through their pocket money and pre-paid card.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Easy access?

      Anyone who has access to your kindle can pretty much shop their brains out. There is very little protection against purchases and this is by design. Kindle is actually not the worst offender - Kobo beats it by mile. So from that perspective FTC has a point. Kind'a.

      The level at which FTC does not have a point is that all Amazon purchases result in an immediate email report in the account holder inbox and are clearly visible on his device. Unless the parent was an idiot to set-up a fully separate account for the kid, with an email they cannot read and stick their credit card into that they will be getting full report of what the kids are shopping. So effectively the kindle account is a "family account" with an arbitrary number of devices associated with it while Google and Apple accounts default to a more personal and per-device setup.

      I know a few households which have moved from Google Play and iDevices to Amazon exactly for that reason: "Sure, shop whatever you want - just keep in mind that I will get the bill 5 mins later and I will know what you bought". That will probably not work with on under 8-year olds as "dad will know" is not a sufficient inhibitor to a "more weapons" buying spree. If your kids are older it is the best option out there. Definitely better than Google or Apple. So will I by the way - I am definitely going to switch to KIndle's for the kid's devices over time as I swap them out as it gives me more parental control at all levels.

      As far as refunds, Amazon is the only retail experience I have never ever had an issue with refunds. You ask for a refund - you get it outright, end of story. No Tesco style "you opened it you bought it".

      So all in all, Amazon may probably have a case here.

      1. Gary 24

        Re: Easy access?

        hmmm no, amazon have to be the worst!!! I got suckered into Prime, and it's shite.

        Their customer service is zero, nothing, nadda I bought some beyerdynamic earphones from amazon because, well, i may as well use that next day delivery i got suckered into, and they broke within 14 days .... Amazon were NOWHERE to be seen, they are illegal scheisters and they hide behind apple with everything. Have you tried finding a customer service number anywhere?

        Look at the blatant monopolistic behaviour with book selling and their music service is shite.... RIP Lovefilm.

        Can't think of a worst company that deserves to be hauled in court and embarrassed.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Easy access?

          While I don't like the lack of a number to call, so far I have yet to have a problem with refunding or getting items replaced with Amazon. Getting to the refunds area could be a little easier, which when you're annoyed doesn't help any, but once there you can request that they call you (they do this quite quickly), message them or just use the automated process.

        2. steward
          Boffin

          They don't have a customer service number because *they call you*.

          There's this thing called a "hypertext link" in their help section. You click on it, click on call me immediately, and get an immediate call. Most people have no problem finding it.

      2. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: Easy access?

        "The level at which FTC does not have a point is that all Amazon purchases result in an immediate email report in the account holder inbox and are clearly visible on his device."

        That immediate email report is still after the fact - the purchase has been made.

        The immediacy of it is also rendered irrelevant by the fact that the parent may not see that email 'immediately' if they don't happen to be using or be able to access their device for any number of reasons. They will see the emails eventually not immediately - and between the time of that purchase and eventually arriving, any number of additional purchases can be made.

        1. SundogUK

          Re: Easy access?

          That is the parents problem, not Amazons.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Easy access?

        "Definitely better than Google or Apple. So will I by the way - I am definitely going to switch to KIndle's for the kid's devices over time as I swap them out as it gives me more parental control at all levels."

        Sorry, but you are talking rubbish. Not sure about apple but Stock android lets you set up an admin account and a restrictive account on the tablet. The admin account then determines which apps will be loaded onto the restrictive accounts, what they can do with those apps, even what levels on some games are available. All in-app purchase have to be granted by the admin account and many more controls.

        Even if you don't use that you can make sure that a password must be entered for every purchase, in-app or otherwise before a sale takes place.

        1. chr0m4t1c

          Re: Easy access?

          Agreed, on iOS there's a PIN protected area in settings that allows you to enable and disable access to a loads of applications and functions, including in-app purchases, as well as setting age restrictions on media (or disabling a specific type of media altogether like music or TV shows).

          You can also decide if a password is required every time a purchase is made or only after 15 minutes have elapsed from the previous purchase.

          On top of that lot there are other settings for privacy and stopping someone from changing various system settings (such as when mobile data can be used).

          Overall, pretty comprehensive.

          And if that lot isn't enough, you always have the option of setting up an account that has no credit or debit card linked to it so that it needs to be pre-loaded from gift cards.

          So, yes, I will also call BS on the "Amazon offers all of this protection and the others don't" statement.

          1. Tom 35 Silver badge

            Re: Easy access? on iOS there's...

            Yes both Android and IOS have controls but I think a lot of them were added after Apple got a good kicking for living off the avails of scam apps. My old iPod touch only had a small subset of the stuff you list and they made it real easy to setup an account linked to a credit card and everything wide open by default. You could setup an account without a credit card but is was a bit like setting up Windows 8 without a microsoft account.

            As for Google, the playstore gift cards have been available in Canada for about half a year, and have only matched the wide availability of iTunes cards for a few months.

  3. John Tserkezis

    Yeah, that's the way. Blame everyone else but the parents who plugged in the credit card numbers, didn't read the terms and conditions (don't feed me bullshit, I KNOW you didn't read it), and then willingly handed over the reigns to their kids.

    Don't expect any sympathy from me, and while you're at it, not Amazon, nor the Goverment. If you expect someone else to protect you against yourself, you deserve what you get. Darwinism comes to mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, right. I'm sure you reads the Ts&Cs for everything, on every website, app, software, etc (and check regularly for all the updates they make throughout the year).

      Of course you do...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes but I'm sure they read the big bold bit about storing credit card details and using it for in-app purchases. It not hard, it fills half the bloody screem

    2. armster

      NOT the parents fault

      I got a kindle fire as a gift, and I am a bit scared of it. Once you enter your Amazon ID (and you need to do that to set it up) it knows everything, including your credit details. Even if you never entered it on the device. I can see how parents set the device up, install a few 'free' games, and hand it off to the kids to play, all the while assuming that since they never entered any credit details or authorized any purchases this would be a safe thing. Of course the parents could figure all this out, I did. But the point is that Amazon made it too easy for kids to spend their parents money if they have access to a kindle and gave too little warning to the parents. Apple did the same thing, and they paid for it (and fixed it afterwards).

  4. Flip

    Upgrade Password

    How about the credit card holder (mom or dad) setting up an "upgrade password" when the game is purchased so that the kids playing the game have to at least ask for permission to upgrade? I'm assuming that there would be a clear indication of the charges to be incurred before agreeing to the charges.

    Maybe that's more of a game delevopment idea rather than an Amazon idea, but you get my meaning.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Upgrade Password

      You should be forced to re-enter the account password before an in-app purchase as a default.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Upgrade Password

        You can manage In-App purchases for Amazon Apps very easily, it's a configuration issue.

        It is easy to disable In-App purchases entirely.

        It is equally easy to leave them enabled but to require a PIN to be entered.

        The Amazon App Store clearly lists that an App features "In-App" purchasing, and while Amazon could do more to publicise it's useful controls on this, it's much better than others.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    How about some facts in this write-up?

    I didn't know that Amazon had Amazon-branded games running on its Amazon-branded android gear with in-game purchasing unlocked by logging into your Amazon account once so that Wifebeater Baby, unaware that he his in an electronic Yakuza den, can rack up the charges by randomly pushing on floating icons. Can anyone explain or is that another fresh-from skool lawyer at the FTC full of youthful hormones trying his mettle at the cost of the economy and the taxpayer?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      DOWNVOTERS: WHERE WE VOTE, WE DON'T NEED NO FACTS!

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Wow

        You sound like Faux News.

  6. MrDamage

    The questions that need to be asked.

    Did the owner of the device, and card, enter the card details into said device for storage, and then fail to implement any form of security around those details to prevent misuse?

    Yes.

    Did the device/card owner willingly give the device, with stored details, to their child and let them use it unsupervised?

    Yes.

    Does the device owner prefer to have an electronic baby sitter for their child, rather than spending time with them and taking an interest in their childs activities?

    Do the T&C's of said device make the device owner aware of how the details are stored, and how they can be used?

    Yes.

    Problem Source: Parents.

    Problem Destination: Anyone but the parents.

    Car Analogy: Parent gives the car keys to a child so they can sit in the car and play at driving. Child stars car and drives it into the wall, causing damage. Parents blame car manufacturer.

  7. Tom 13

    Schadenfreude

    It may be completely empty calories and carcinogenic nitrates, but it sure does taste good!

  8. Cipher

    It is incumbent upon the credit card holder to safeguard the use of the card at the device level.

    This is a user (parent) caused problem.

    The FTC is making a problem so they can solve it and expand government power...

  9. bigtimehustler

    I think Amazon will probably win this one, if they warned parents using noticed and warned users they must have the credit card owners permission and as android does have, put in place mitigation features if chosen to be used. There really is no way they broke the law, regardless of whether people like it or not. I think once the case is over Apple will be wondering why it agreed to anything.

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