Apple ratted out Google to the FTC over in-app purchases made by kids

July 10, 2014
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Do you remember the story about Apple having to refund millions of dollars to parents after it transpired that children could make in-app purchases, for real money, without their parents knowing about it? As a responsible, mature, technology leader, what do you think Apple did? Yup, you guessed it, the Cupertino tech giant cried foul and told the FTC to go and investigate Google, because it isn’t fair that only it should get its wrists slapped.

Ramirez had targeted Apple after it was revealed that children had spent millions of dollars without their parents' knowledge.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, POLITICO, an American political journalism organization, has obtained a previously undisclosed email between Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. In the email Sewell sends Ramirez an article which criticizes Google’s in-app purchase mechanism. “I thought this article might be of some interest, particularly if you have not already seen it,” wrote Sewell in an email which was also copied to Democratic Commissioner Julie Brill.

Previously Ramirez had targeted Apple after it was revealed that children had spent millions of dollars without their parents’ knowledge. One mother had told the FTC that her daughter spent $2,600 while playing the game “Tap Pet Hotel.” At the time Ramirez said, “Whether you’re doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply. You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorize.”

Apple wasn't very happy about the terms of the settlement.

Apple wasn’t very happy about the terms of the settlement as it had also been forced to pay up in class action settlement that it reached with parents during 2013. Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote, “It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy. However, the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.”

But that “noble” gesture to just “accept it” didn’t mean that Apple weren’t going to try and do Google some harm, if it got a chance. Not that Google isn’t without fault. It’s in-app purchase mechanism was just as broken as Apple’s and like Apple it has since modified the way it works. Google is currently being sued by a concerned mother after her son purchased $65 worth of game currency.

What do you think? Should the FTC investigate Google’s in-app purchase mechanism? Is Apple playing dirty?

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