Amazon.com faces a lawsuit filed Thursday by the U.S. government over allowing children to rack up millions of dollars in charges related to mobile apps without getting permission from their parents, who are then stuck with the bills.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission asked the court in a lawsuit filed against the online retailer on Thursday to refund the money spent without parental authorization and to end the practice of allowing unlimited purchases without requiring a password or other mechanism to give parents control over their accounts.
The unauthorized charges are generally associated with children's apps, such as games, which can be free to download but allow players to buy "coins" or other digital products with the credit card associated with the device, the FTC said in its complaint.
The FTC said in its complaint that Amazon responded to complaints about unauthorized charges by requiring passwords to be used for large purchases starting in 2012. That was extended to all purchases in early 2013 but once a password has been punched into the device, a purchase window remained open for up to an hour, meaning that further charges can be made without the parents' knowledge, the complaint said.
The FTC settled a similar case with Apple Inc. in January. Apple agreed to refund consumers at least $32.5 million in unauthorized charges made by children and agreed to change its billing practices to require consent from parents before charging for such in-app spending.
Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.