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Apple draws FTC attention to Google's app rules — report


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Tim Ferguson

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Apple contacted the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about Google’s approach to paid apps and in-app purchases, which led to children spending large amounts of money in its Play store, according to a report by Politico.

A Freedom of Information request by the US publication revealed that Apple approached the FTC about Google’s practices after the regulator cracked down on the iPhone maker’s rules around paid apps and in-purchases in relation to the spending by children.

Bruce Sewell, Apple’s general counsel, emailed the FTC’s chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Democratic commissioner Julie Brill, pointing to an article that criticised Google Play for the same reasons as Apple was being targeted.

Apple reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission in January to pay $32.5 million to parents who lost money as a result of their children making in-app purchases without their consent.

Android devices previously allowed apps to be downloaded up to 30 minutes after a password was entered, meaning children were able to buy paid apps without the knowledge of their parents if they got hold of the device. This is one of the same reasons the FTC targeted Apple.

The likelihood of the FTC taking action against Google appears to have increased with reports it is considering fines, additional record-keeping, and disclosure requirements for Amazon in relation to in-app purchases made by children in its Appstore.

The FTC also told Amazon that notices regarding in-app purchases should be made more prominent, that passwords should be required for all buys, and that refunds should be made simpler and easier.

Amazon has said it will defend its approach in court, arguing that is has already met or exceeded the terms imposed on Amazon around the same issue.

Both Apple and Google are subject to other legal action around their processes for allowing children to buy apps.

Apple settled a private class action lawsuit related to the issue in October 2013 and in March this year, Google tightened up the process for making in-app purchases in apps downloaded from Google Play, following the filing of a class action related to children making unauthorised purchases.

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