Business

Google sued over children’s app bills

Google decline to comment on the suit. Above, the Google Sanbox exhibit was part of a recent Dubai advertising festival.

Getty Images for Dubai Lynx

Google decline to comment on the suit. Above, the Google Sanbox exhibit was part of a recent Dubai advertising festival.

WASHINGTON — Last month, 4- and 5-year-old brothers in New York quickly spent $65.95 in real money to buy virtual goods in Marvel’s “Run Jump Splash” game on the family tablet. They were able to rack up the charges without entering a password.

And for that, the boys’ mother has joined a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday against Google Inc., accusing the company of deceiving consumers about its in-app purchase system, which critics say makes it too easy for children to spend money on Android devices.

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The case mirrors a class action and Federal Trade Commission action against Apple Inc. for similar practices that had consumers decrying hundreds of dollars in surprise and unwanted in-app charges on games that target children.

The new suit begs the question of why Google, seeing Apple’s three-year-long public relations and legal headache over the issue, did not follow Apple in strengthening billing protections.

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Parents want Google to close its 30-minute window for unlimited purchases within an app and are seeking at least $5 million in damages.

Google, which operates the Android Google Play app store, declined to comment.

Lawyers for more than 100 parents in the suit say that by allowing purchases of goods online and without a password, Google Play took advantage of young children who won’t exercise the same financial judgment as adults.

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Children may not fully understand that when they buy a virtual gold coin, fruit, or crystal to advance levels in a game, their parents will be billed.

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