Mother sues Google after her son purchased $65 worth of game currency

by: Andrew GrushMarch 11, 2014

Back in February of last year, Apple found itself caught up in lawsuit that centered around kids racking up bills by buying in-app purchases. The center of the issue was that it was too easy for kids to download in-app purchases and that Apple needed to do a better job of restricting in-app purchases without special authorization. Well, here we go again.

A woman by the name of Ilana Imber-Gluck has now filed a lawsuit with a court in northern California after her 5-year old boy spent $65.95 on in-app purchases for Marvel Run Jump Smash. The lawsuit is not just for herself but for other parents that have found themselves in similar circumstances.

So what’s the deal here? By default, Google requires you to enter a password in order to grab in-app purchases, but here’s the rub: apparently there is a 30-minute window after download an app where you don’t need to supply a password in order to grab some in-app purchases, and that’s where things apparently went bad in this particular case.

In short, the point of the lawsuit is to force Google to remove the 30-minute window altogether and likely to pay back in-app purchase costs in a manner similar to Apple’s settlement, which saw tons of iTunes credit given out to affected parents.

Should Google be held accountable?

It’s important to realize that while the 30-minute window does in fact exist, it can be easily removed by going into the Play Store’s setting and checking the option “use password to restrict purchases”. With this in place, you’ll always need to provide a password to make any kind of purchase, in-app ones included.

Now I realize that not all parents are techies like myself, but I have a 4-year old that has access to a tablet (in moderation) and have never ran into any problems. Why? Because I made sure I did my homework and appropriately locked down my device. You would think that ensuring your kids can’t make unauthorized purchases would be one of the first things even non-techies look into before handing over their mobile devices to their little ones.

What do you think, should Google have already turned the window off by default, or should it be up to the parents to properly ensure that their devices are protected from accidental purchases?

  • wedjat

    start playing with your children also don’t let your children play with mobile phones. social services should get more power. today parents put children in front of tv for hours so they can “enjoy” themself

    • MasterMuffin

      It’s Google’s fault that I don’t look after my son!!

      • wedjat

        probably some parents only check on their children via google maps and street view :P

    • Babysitter

      It’s the parents fault in my opinion.

      • jeff

        U r right. Parents need to know what their kids are doing 24/7. Thats whats wrong with this crazy world. If I done something wrong growing up i got my ass beat. Peroid!!!!

    • Cas

      They both at fault:
      – Google should turn that 30-minutes window OFF by default.
      – Parents should be watching their kids when playing with electronics.

      • utubersss

        Yup, I definitely i agree you.

    • KingofPing

      Well, that’s a bit over-the-top, but the point is definitely valid.

      Parents, generally (at least the ones we hear about in the news, eh?) need to take a greater role in the raising of their children and have some responsibility.

      Not sure it’s quite to the point where we need to start disallowing the use of media and entertainment devices (or piling on more Social Services), but yeah – when we keep seeing stories like this it’s kind of hard not to over-react some times.

      I’m still leaning towards the belief that the folks we hear about in these kind of stories are the minority by a large margin and that the majority of parents are not, in fact, raising freeloaders and serial-killers. ;-)

      • Eric

        I couldn’t have “said” it any better. Well put.

  • JSo

    It’s always the parents fault. Google can’t control what your kids do. Kids and electronics don’t mix anyways, in my opinion.

  • KingofPing

    “it can be easily removed by going into the Play Store’s setting and checking the option “use password to restrict purchases”. ”

    I had heard that this was actually the default setting. Is that not the case?

    • JSo

      Read the 3rd paragraph

      • KingofPing

        I did actually. Unfortunately it doesn’t mention whether the restriction setting is ticked by default or not; rather that a password is required by default.

        Two different things as far as I can tell…

        • JSo

          By default, you have to enter a password to purchase an app. But apparently, if you download a free app and there are in-app purchases you can make, you can purchase stuff without entering a password for 30 minutes after downloading the app.

          • KingofPing

            Reread the part I quoted. There is a setting which stops that from happening.

            This is the setting I referred to in my original post as being on by default.

          • JSo

            Yes, thats for making purchases in the play store. Apparently, it doesnt affect “in-app purchases” 30 minutes after downloading a free app.

            EDIT: Wait, I think I see what you are saying

          • KingofPing


          • JSo

            Ok, I do think it is on by default. I have never clicked it and its on by default for me. So If that setting alone has control over that 30 minute window, I dont know what happened with that woman and her son.

          • KingofPing

            Heh… The article? :p

            Question is now: Is it just certain devices. I’ve seen “on by default” reports for a bunch of Nexus and GPe devices…

            What device are you using, if you don’t mind?

          • JSo

            Yeah, I have been re-reading the article to get this straight. lol. The third paragraph made it seem like the woman had a password for downloading apps but it left a 30 minute window after downloading for in-app purchases without a password. But at the end it says that if you have a password set and the option clicked, it closes that window as well. So it kind of contradicted the first half. I guess that woman just didnt have the password option on at all.

            And every android phone I have had has required a password for buying apps. I have never had to click the option. Unless the option is saved by google over different devices. I started out with the Droid X2, then the Galaxy Nexus and now the Nexus 5.

          • KingofPing

            It is confusing; and there likely is also room for improvement. So far, from what I have uncovered:

            Default settings are such that a password is required for every purchase from the play store, regardless of timing or in-app vs play-store purchase. It’s about as “verified” and “authenticated” as you can get without requiring multi-factor authentication to purchase.

            Turning off the setting in Google Play settings apparently makes it so that a purchase requires a password but leaves a 30-minute window where any purchase (in app or otherwise) does not require the password be re-entered.

            The largest issue here (and what I believe might be the point of the rather wandering article above) seems to be that if the restriction in Google Play Settings is disabled and a free app (never before installed by the account) is installed it treats that free app as a purchase (with no password required) and opens up that 30 minute window; thus allowing *any* number of purchases to be made of any amount through the Play Store or in-app for 30 minutes – without a password *ever* being entered.

            That, I believe, is the scary part. Article should be re-written from scratch at this point (or just an one with updated information).

            Not having tested the situation myself I cannot comment on how it works, but if the above is correct it is definitely something that needs to be fixed. Still not entirely sure a lawsuit is required, but at the very least it has shed some light on the issue and gotten folks talking about it.

          • JSo

            Yeah, a lawsuit for 65 bucks is kind of over the top. She says shes doing it for other people as well though. But bottom line, its still her fault she wasn’t paying attention to what her 5 year old kid was doing on her device.

          • KingofPing

            I share the opinion of whoever stated it above, but;

            They’re both at fault – Google and Mom.

            Mom for disabling the restriction (or allowing it to be disabled) and allowing the child to rack up those charges; and Google for allowing the installation of a free app to open that window without asking for a password.

            Even unrestricted, a password should be required at least once to open the window. With the “free app=purchase”‘ bit though, that is not currently the case.

          • Fundy fish

            Its on for me and I never ticked so I think it is on by default on my nexus 4

  • Andreas Weigl

    Honestly, if I know that I can buy something threw a device and want to give it to my kids I am responsible to make sure that my kids can not by random stuff. I don’t even want to know how many parents have their passwords for various shopping sides saved in their browsers and let their kids play on the PC. Of course the kids have to actually go to that website and buy things.
    Google as well as apple make it far easier to quickly buy something.

    In my opinion I would ask Google to do have a parents guide on how to make a Google play device safe. On top of that maybe a pop up with every new Google play release that points to that document. It could even be a guide for everyone, not just parents.

    • TheGCU

      It’s up to parents to find out on their own. It’s not Google’s responsibility to explain every single little nuance of every service they provide; that’s why there are FAQs. Is it Ford’s job to teach you to drive?

      • Andreas Weigl

        And yet every car comes with a manual, explaining almost everything about the car and how to operate it.
        I did not say it was Google responsibility. What I am saying is that I would ASK Google to do it.

        • TheGCU

          You can ask, but they’ll say no, as they should. Google provides you with all the information you need, but it’s up to you to read it. It’s that simple. People don’t want to learn how to do things anymore; they expext things to magically work as they want them to. Then they get mad when they don’t know because they couldn’t be bothered to find out.

          How do you make a device safe for your kids? By not giving it to your kids. Give them a book, not your phone to play with.

          • Andreas Weigl

            You can not learn everything. Are you a kernel developer and know every detail about the kernel that is running on an Android device? Can you repair every problem with every transportation system you ever used? One thing you have to keep in mind is that there are people with different levels of knowledge. Especially when it comes to tablets the basic idea is to make it as easy and intuitive to use as possible. Since this article talks about the 30 minutes that you can buy stuff after buying something I would say that this mom either saw that dialog and assumed it would come every time or maybe she even knew about that option. Let me open the settings and read what it says: “Password … Use password to restrict purchases” … nothing about 30 minutes. Open the play store and show me where I can get more detailed help.about the settings. There is no help button at all.

            Again, I agree that it is the parents responsibility to not give their kids access to something where they simply can spend money. If I give my kids a wallet with 1000 bucks and leave them alone at Toys R Us I know exactly what will happen.

            What I am saying is that you could think about your customers and think about how you can inform them better about your product, There is always room for improvement. Some might actually improve and some just are too much effort.

          • TheGCU

            Yes, people have different levels of knowledge, but most people just can’t be bothered in the first place. How many people do you know that actually read the manual for their car? Some people do, but most people just can’t be bothered in the first place. People expect things just to work. People use computers every single day, but most people have no idea about the most basic of functionality because they can’t be bothered to find out. So now we get things that pander to the lowest common denominator, because most people are just stupid and need to be spoonfed everything, because they refuse to feed themselves. That’s how you end up with something like iOS, which just assumes you’re an idiot and doesn’t let you do most of what a smartphone is capable of. I’m not trying to rant on Apple, it’s just a good example.

  • districtjack

    Its entrapment. I have to enter a password to purchase apps. That is what I chose when I set up play store. I had no idea there was a 30 minute window. That is a very deceptive thing Google is doing.
    I had always believed the password protected me. Apparently it does, but not completely. This is the deceptive technique of a salesman doing whatever possible to increase profit by any means no matter how questionable. Evil Google,….evil.

    Edit: however, now that I know there is a 30 minute window I will supervise the kids for half an hour after I buy them a game.

    • TheGCU

      Or you could re-read the article and turn off the 30-minute window yourself. Take some responsibility.

      And you’ll only supervise your kids for 30 minutes? Remind me never to ask you to babysit. A smartphone or tablet doesn’t replace you knowing what your kids are up to. They can also use Google to look up anything while you’re not supervising them. Is that also Google’s fault?

      • districtjack

        I already have “use password to restrict purchases” checked. I’ve never seen an option for a 30 minute window.

        Here is a quote from the article you just told me to reread:
        “apparently there is a 30-minute window after download an app where you don’t need to supply a password in order to grab some in-app purchases”

        I’ll go to the play store and see if there is an option to remove the thirty minute window

        Edit: just checked and there is no option to turn off the 30 minute window. There is only a check box to require a password to restrict purchases

        • TheGCU

          I have to put in my password every single time I need to pay for something, even If I buy two things right after each other. I don’t understand what’s so hard about this.

          Anyways, it comes down to parents should be watching theirnkids, not trusting a device to babysit them.

        • Deveron

          “It’s important to realize that while the 30-minute window does in fact exist, it can be easily removed [disabled] by going into the Play Store’s setting and checking the option “use password to restrict purchases”. With this in place, you’ll always need to provide a password to make any kind of purchase, in-app ones included.”

        • FigureItOut

          It appears you lack the cognitive ability to read the article and process the information that would tell you that you’ve already turned off the 30 minute window. Learn to think before speaking.

          • districtjack

            Due to the lawsuit Google will release a new play store update 4.6.16
            This should clear up all the confusion. Here is a screenshot from the new build

    • Todd Brown

      “Entrapment” probably isn’t the right word, but I do have to say, I agree with this guy. I was under the impression that “use password to restrict purchases” meant exactly what it says. This is the first I’ve heard of a 30 minute window. And give me a break with the bad parenting crap.. Your kid could be sitting right next to you and make a purchase without you seeing it.

      • districtjack

        Yeah entrapment is too strong a word for this. Lol.
        But it is shady if one has enabled password protection and then 27 minutes later a purchase can be made without re-entering the password. Its a policy that favors Google’s bottom line. Shady.

    • Ben Edwards

      If you read the article correctly, I believe having the “use password to restrict purchases” option on means you can’t make purchases at any time without entering a password. i.e. it nullifies the whole 30 minute window thing.

      • districtjack

        Here’s the quote from the article again:

        “By default, Google requires you to enter a password in order to grab in-app purchases, but here’s the rub: apparently there is a 30-minute window after download an app where you don’t need to supply a password in order to grab some in-app purchases”
        What is the purpose of having password protection if Google bypasses it with a 30 minute window of opportunity? It’s practically engineered to allow kids to buy stuff while the parent thinks its locked again.

        • Ben Edwards

          And here’s the quote I was talking about:

          “It’s important to realize that while the 30-minute window does in fact exist, it can be easily removed by going into the Play Store’s setting and checking the option “use password to restrict purchases”. With this in place, you’ll always need to provide a password to make any kind of purchase, in-app ones included.”

          The two contradict each other entirely, so what the hell is the author on about?

          • districtjack

            You know, I was just thinking the same thing. This article needs to be edited for clarity, otherwise we are all arguing against each other based on two contradicting quotes. Sort of…

          • KingofPing

            The best part is that the second quote is commenting on a setting that seems to be checked by default.

            …meaning Mom (or someone else using her device) explicitly unchecked it. (You must enter the password to disable this check as well)

        • voiceofreason

          It’s for people who would like to buy multiple things at a time. You’re thinking of purely apps. What about songs, movies, tv shows, etc. Entering a password each time for that would be ridiculous. 30 minutes is enough time to shop and do what you need to do. If you can’t teach your child that they shouldn’t keep on buying things then your child isn’t old enough to be playing with a piece of technology like that. These aren’t devices for children, their meant for adults; you just happened to give it to them.

    • mdrmike

      Missing the point, the 30-minute window is optional. Go into settings and turn off if you don’t like this feature — and it is a nice feature for most users. (but probably should be OFF by default)

      • districtjack

        The 30 minute window is NOT optional. Password restricting purchases is optional, but even if you enable password protection the 30 minute window is active. It CANNOT be turned off.

  • Now people expect Google to take care of their children :P

    • TheGCU

      Exactly. Take some responsibility people. I hope the judge tells this mother where to go.

  • DarxideGarrison

    My Nexus 7 has a guest user account so when my little relatives want to play games they can go right ahead and I don’t have to worry about them going into my personal accounts. But they can’t make any in app purchases! So ultimately it’s the parents fault for not taking the extra steps in securing their device. If I buy a device, I want to know the ins & outs of everything, especially if I’m going to let a kid use it!

  • fredphoesh

    If some self indulged child has access to buying stuff at will, then that is the parent’s responsibility… what kind of parent lets their kid do whatever with money, then sue somebody else… what a joke, like that american woman who sued macdonalds because she burnt herself on coffee… how idiotic.

    • districtjack

      She is suing to get the 30 minute window removed. What is the purpose of having password protection if Google bypasses it with a 30 minute window of opportunity?

      • John Garlits

        Exactly. It’s the principle.

  • John Doe

    Next they will be suing Google.. etc for allowing their kids to access porn, or other inappropriate material which is freely available on the internet. Or taking tasteless selfies pictures of themselves … where does it stop??
    I’m sorry, but this woman needs to be sued for stupidity …
    Our legal system is full of this type of frivolous money/time wasting crap!!
    Lawyers have to start saying NO to cases that are nothing but stupidity rapped up in a fuzzy blanket!
    But we know that that will never happen .. right? (talking to you lawyers out there …)

  • Fundy fish

    To be fair its closer to $66, not 65 misleading article title I’m so done with this site.

  • Albin

    It’s early days for these payment systems on all fronts: the idea that every time you lend somebody your phone or tablet you are handing them a credit card and PIN for the Play store or any QR Code the holder passes by, is nervous-making. Lawsuits like this are cheaper innovation inspirers than having a Google committee sit around in their primary colored daycare centers thinking about it.

  • Leonardo Rojas

    Didn’t know about this either!! Evil Google!! But, it’s fault of those parents too.

  • districtjack

    Because of all the controversy in the comments due to the conflicting information in this article, I have done a little research on this case.

    Google treats free apps as a paid purchase, and this is where the “30 minute window” comes into play in this legal case. If you buy an app you have to enter your password and after the purchase you have 30 minutes to purchase in app enhancements without having to reauthorize the transaction with your Google Play password.

    The problem arises when you download a free app. Google treats this “free” app as an actual purchase, and even though you did not enter your Google Play password your account is authorized to purchase within that free app for 30 minutes as if you had actually entered you password. That is the basis of the lawsuit.

    But then again, we all agree to the TOS of every web site we use. Usually at the bottom of every agreement are these words: ” reserves the right to change any of these terms at any time”. LOL, I read one once.

    But this lady does have a point. Who the hell knew that a free app is actually a paid app that automatically unlocks and authorizes your credit card for up to 30 minutes after you didn’t even buy anything with it?

  • Milind

    I want an option that totally disallows any in-app purchases. And I hope Google either adds such an option on their own or else loses this case and is ordered to pay so many millions in damages that they end up adding such an option.

    And while they are at it, add the ability to add an account only in the Play Store. I have to add my account to my kids phones just so they can access all the apps I have purchased. I have to disable syncing for my account – something my kids can change if they decide to. And even with disabling all the syncing, Google Talk notifications still show up on their phones.

  • Ben

    1. 30 minute window is dumb.

    2. Stupid lady is also dumb, get your crdit card and buy a gift card. Then they cant max out the card.

  • EvenInTheDarkestHour

    My son bought $96 worth of “jems” from an Apple app. They kindly refunded the money without incident. And since then, we changed the settings for in app purchases. If you let your kids use your electronics without supervision, stuff will happen.


    This happened to me when I got my 9 year old her Nexus 7.It was my fault for not doing my homework. Called Google and they refunded me the money without question. NBD. Now there is a password on her tablet for purchases. People need to take responsibility for their ignorance. Like I did!

  • me

    Why does that 30 minute window exist?

  • me

    Legally, I am pretty sure that it is the woman’s fault. Google, with its all-powerful lawyers, probably wrote something outlining the 30-minute window in its terms and conditions. The woman suing, who is a lawyer, probably should have read the terms and conditions before suing or even using the store/device. I know that most people (if not all) do not read the terms and conditions, but they should. They have no one to blame but themselves for not reading the terms and conditions.

  • Say What?

    This lady is a moron and should be in CONTROL of her kids and not let them be in CONTROL of her!

  • KB

    I am assuming this means the 30min window is not activated if the “use password to restrict purchases” box is checked. Google has a disclaimer that says all purchases are your responsibility when unchecking the option which is on by default. Sounds like this should be thrown out, the mother had to disable this feature and accept the agreement before disabling that feature.

  • Pedro

    So, it all comes to this:
    Mother buys device
    Mother adds credit card info to device
    Mother gives device to kid

    Kid should spend a lot more than $60 so that mother would become a bit less stupid.

  • 404

    Thanks Obama