Parent Can Proceed With Lawsuit Against Google For In-App Purchases

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing Google of allowing young children to rack up credit card charges by making in-app purchases.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose, Calif. ruled this week that New York resident Ilana Imber-Gluck could proceed with allegations that Google's app-store practices resulted in unjust enrichment and that the company breached its duty of good faith.

Whyte dismissed several of Imber-Gluck's other allegations, but said the parent of two could amend her complaint and try again. The ruling came in response to Google's motion to dismiss the case in its entirety.

Imber-Gluck alleged in March that one of her two young sons, both of whom are under 6, purchased $65.95 worth of in-game currency shortly after she downloaded the 99-cent app “Run Jump Smash.”

Imber-Gluck said in her complaint that Google allows parents to purchase cheap apps for their children, but doesn't adequately disclose that kids will be able to automatically purchase in-game currency for a period of 30 minutes. She is seeking class-action status.

Shortly after Imber-Gluck brought the case, Google revised its policies. The company now allows users to configure the PlayStore app to require a password for all purchases.

Apple recently faced a class-action lawsuit as well from 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 ring up charges, according to the FTC's complaint.

Apple settled the FTC action 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.

Amazon also is facing a lawsuit by the FTC for allegedly allowing children to charge in-app purchases to their parents' credit cards.

"Little girls using tablet" photo from Shutterstock.

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