If you’re a parent, you know that kids can unknowingly blow up your wallet by making in-app purchases without your consent.
If this has happened to you before, there’s now some restitution coming your way.
Update: Amazon to pay more than $70M in refunds
Back in 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Amazon for profiting from “stars,” “acorns” and “coins” that minors would purchase without parental consent in otherwise free gaming apps designed for Kindle and Android devices.
These kinds of in-app purchases are common in “free” apps like Farm Story, Ice Age Village and more.
Now the e-commerce giant has agreed to issue refunds to affected parties, effective immediately.
Are you eligible for a payout?
Amazon will send an email to notify you if you are eligible. Parents with kids who were under 18 when they made unauthorized in-app purchases between November 2011 and May 2016 will be eligible.
How can I apply for the refund?
The FTC says to use the link in your email from Amazon or use this Amazon page to apply for a refund. As an alternative, you may log on to your Amazon account and look in the Message Center under “Important Messages” for further guidance.
How long do you have to claim your refund?
You have until May 28, 2018, to submit your refund request.
What should I do after I apply?
Your refund request will be reviewed by Amazon. If approved, you’ll get your refund for any unauthorized charges you paid. Amazon may contact you if there are further questions about your refund request.
Should you need to reach out to the company with further question, you can contact Amazon at 866-216-1072.
Here’s the backstory to Amazon’s in-app purchasing debacle
This settlement resolves a lawsuit the FTC brought against Amazon three years ago over its in-app purchase policy as it related to unauthorized charges made by minors.
The FTC alleged that Amazon banked $86 million from the in-app purchases made by kids. Furthermore, it said that 42% of those purchases were not made with parental approval.
Amazon, meanwhile, steadfastly maintained those estimates were inaccurate.
However, a federal district court ruled in 2016 that Amazon must issue refunds for the in-app purchases in question.
But that wasn’t the end of the story because neither Amazon nor the FTC were completely happy with the verdict.
The FTC went on to seek an injunction that would have barred Amazon from similar in-app purchasing practices going forward, but their request was denied. And Amazon stuck to its story that it had not violated any laws with how it handled in-app purchasing by minors.
So the FTC and Amazon filed appeals. But both parties mutually agreed to drop those appeals in April 2017.
That cleared the way for the refund process to begin, which has now happened — finally!
How to turn in-app purchasing off by device
The bigger issue here, of course, is how in-app purchases can bust your budget when kids unknowingly run up a big tab. It’s a real danger zone for your finances.
Ultimately, the easiest way to handle the threat of in-app purchases is to avoid them altogether. That requires setting up strict parental controls on devices your kids use.
Android users can download the free Kid’s Place app, which prevents children from downloading new apps, making phone calls, texting or performing other actions that can cost you money.
There are also device-specific ways to shut down the ability of kids to do in-app purchasing:
- How to turn off in-app purchases on iOS.
- How to block in-app purchases on Android.
- How to turn off in-app purchasing on a Kindle.
Finally, Amazon also offers additional info on how to set parental controls for in-app purchases here.