Google Defeats Class-Action Over In-App Purchases

Google won't have to face a class-action lawsuit by parents who say they were wrongly billed for in-app purchases by their children, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose, Calif. accepted Google's argument that a class-action isn't appropriate, given that it already settled with the Federal Trade Commission. That agreement requires Google to issue refunds to parents who were charged without their authorization.

“The FTC settlement provides significant relief in the form of a complete refund and an injunction,” Whyte wrote in a decision issued on Friday.

Whyte rejected the parents' arguments that the FTC settlement doesn't substitute for a class-action. The parents noted in court papers that the FTC agreement doesn't require Google to pay “punitive” damages on top of refunds. But Whyte said that the “possibility” of punitive damages “is not sufficient to overcome the comprehensive relief already provided in the FTC settlement.”

The parents also criticized the FTC agreement on the grounds that it only required Google to send one email notice to people affected by the settlement. Whyte said those complaints were “unfounded,” noting that Google has already refunded more than $30 million to parents.

The decision stems from a lawsuit dating to March of 2014, when New York resident Ilana Imber-Gluck alleged that one of her two young sons, both of whom were then 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 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. Other parents later joined in the case. Imber-Gluck and other parents can still proceed as individuals, but it's not clear that they will do so.

Six months after Imber-Gluck first filed suit, the FTC announced that it had reached a deal with Google to settle allegations that it unfairly billed parents for their children's in-app purchases.

That deal followed a similar arrangement with Apple, which also agreed to refund parents for in-app purchases by children.

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