mother of two young boys has sued Google for allegedly allowing her children to ring up debit card charges within the Marvel children's app “Run Jump Smash.”
a New York resident, alleges that she downloaded the 99-cent app to a Samsung Galaxy tablet last month. Within 30 minutes, her 4-year-old or 5-year-old son purchased $65.95 worth of in-game currency,
she says in her complaint, which was filed on Friday in the Northern District of California.
She alleges that Google allows parents to purchase cheap apps for their children, but fails to
inform the parents that their kids will be able to automatically purchase in-game currency for a period of 30 minutes.
“Google offers many games that use the same bait-and-switch
business scheme as Run Jump Smash,” she alleges. “Google entices the child with a free or inexpensive (e.g., $0.99) download of a gaming platform that then offers the sale of irresistible
game currency in order to enjoy the game as it was designed to be 'played.'”
She is seeking to bring the case as a class-action on behalf of all parents whose children have made
in-app purchases. Among other items, she is asking for a ruling that any in-app purchases by children are voidable by their parents.
“The targeting of children by Google and inducing
them to purchase, without the knowledge or authorization of their parents, millions of dollars of Game Currency is unlawful exploitation in the extreme,” she says in her lawsuit.
Apple recently faced a class-action lawsuit as well as Federal Trade Commission charges over a similar practice. Although Apple's iTunes store requests that an account holder enter a password before
making an initial in-app purchase, the company often saves that password for at least 15 minutes -- during which time children were able to continue to rack up charges, according to the FTC's
Apple settled the FTC charges by agreeing to provide refunds to parents of at least $32.5 million. The company also promised that in the future, it will require people to
explicitly authorize charges for in-app purchases.