Have you downloaded “free” apps and games from Google Play only to discover that you have to pay in order to use them? Free to install doesn’t mean free to use. Although there is nothing wrong in charging for your software – after all this is how app developers are supposed to make money – but why promote your product as free if it is not free? Through the intervention of the US Federal Trade Commission Google has agreed to refund at least $ 19 million that were charged by hoodwinking unsuspecting users into paying for the apps and the games. Normally when you download a game, you also need to purchase add-ons in order to play that game and this is where the cheating part creeps in.
About a year ago my seven-year-old daughter purchased $ 105 worth of coins for a car racing game unbeknownst to me. The problem with such purchases is that you have to request a refund within 15 minutes. I came to know of it after a couple of hours and by that time it was too late. Still, I contacted Google and tried to get a refund but it was an abstract Italian company and they didn’t even reply and I didn’t have much time to pursue further. But in the same manner, you can find many complaints expressed on the Internet where parents claim that their kids ended up making hefty payments after downloading “free” games and apps.
Similar cases were filed against Apple as well as Amazon. Apple agreed to pay $ 32.5 million in January but Amazon refused to settle the charges. Google is to make the refunds within 12 months after the settlement becomes final.
When the in-app charges were introduced by Google Play back in 2011, according to the FTC complaint, these were not protected by password. A child could easily purchase virtual items by just tapping on a link or a button and in many cases, as was the case with my daughter, the kids didn’t even know that they were making some sort of purchases. Google said in a statement:
We’ve already made product changes to ensure people have the best Google Play experience possible. We’re glad to put this matter behind us so we can focus on creating more ways for people to enjoy all the entertainment they love.
The company has also promised to change its billing practices to make sure that people are not inadvertently tricked into buying virtual products.