Amazon should refund millions of dollars to parents charged for unauthorized purchases by their kids, the Federal Trade Commission says in a complaint it filed today at a U.S. District Court in Washington state. The agency is concerned about in-app orders in games, where it says Amazon keeps 30% of the charges. Kids often didn’t know that real money was involved when they played games for “virtual items within the apps such as ‘coins,’ ‘stars,’ and ‘acorns’ without parental involvement,” the FTC says. The problem goes back to November 2011 when Amazon introduced in-app charges to its Appstore, without password requirements. “Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created,” says FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “We are seeking refunds for affected parents and a court order to ensure that Amazon gets parents’ consent for in-app purchases.”
Amazon told the FTC in a letter last week that it would defend itself against the charges, which it called “deeply disappointing.” Its policies were “responsible, customer-focused and lawful” and included “prominent notice of in-app purchasing, effective parental controls, real-time notice of every in-app purchase, and world-class customer service,” it says.
But the FTC complaint paints a different picture with the app for “Ice Age Village” which enables players to make virtual purchases for items in the game without charge using “coins” and “acorns.” The problem is that it also allows users to buy these coins and acorns “using real money on a screen that is visually similar to the one that has no real-money … Read More »
The deals close the FTC’s nearly 20-month investigations and fall into two categories. In the first case, Google says it will no longer try to block other providers of wireless devices including smartphones from using patents that the search giant acquired last year when it paid $12.5B for Motorola Mobility. “These essential patents and others like them are the cornerstone of the system of interoperability standards that ensure that wireless internet devices and mobile phones can talk to one another,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz says. “Over half of American consumers own and use one of these devices — including iPhones, Android phones and Xboxes.” Google agreed to drop injunctions, and license its patents to any company on what the FTC calls “fair and reasonable terms.” In a separate case, Google agreed to stop taking and misidentifying content from rival content companies. For example Leibowitz says that Google took user-generated restaurant reviews on Yelp “and led consumers to believe that these reviews were its own.” When the content owners complained, he adds, “Google allegedly threatened to remove them entirely from Google’s search results.” As part of its deal with the FTC, Google also agreed to remove restrictions that made it hard for advertisers that use its AdWords service from coordinating campaigns on other platforms. Read More »
The Federal Trade Commission today gave Disney’s $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise the green light. The FTC posted an “early termination” to its typical 30-day regulatory waiting period online Tueday. That clears any merger and antitrust issues for Disney. Announced October 30, the company’s acquisition of Lucasfilm can now formally move forward. No date of when the deal will actually close has been given by either Disney or Lucas. The year 2015 was given, however, as the date for the new Star Wars movie by Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger when the deal was announced. At least two more Star Wars movies will follow in the next few years. Lucas himself has handed over the running of Lucasfilm to Kathleen Kennedy but is serving as a consultant and brand manager. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire scribe Michael Arndt was announced on November 9 as the screenplay writer for Episode VII.