“Alexa, how do I get my Amazon app store refund?” is a question many parents may soon be asking their virtual assistant.
After a yearlong appeals process with the Federal Trade Commission, the online retailer will shell out more than $70 million
for unauthorized in-app purchases kids made without their parents approval.
Amazon will begin issuing refunds soon on the purchases made via its app and virtual assistant Alexa through its Echo Dot smart speaker, the FTC said. More details on the refunds are forthcoming, but purchases made between November 2011 and May 2016 could be eligible for reimbursement.
“This case demonstrates what should be a bedrock principle for all companies — you must get customers’ consent before you charge them,” Thomas B. Pahl, acting director for the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said.
One example of an Amazon app store purchase made without parental consent is an incident with the Echo Dot that went viral earlier this year.
Brook Neitzel, 6, asked Alexa to get her a cookies and a dollhouse
. Soon after, both arrived on her doorstep, puzzling her mother, Megan Neitzel, who later found how what happened and promptly put a requirement for a security code on future purchases through Alexa on her account.
Instead of sending the items back, the Neitzels ate the cookies, which were Royal Dansk Danish Butter Cookies if you’re interested, and donated the KidKraft Sparkle Mansion dollhouse to charity.
Apple and Google also had similar cases filed with the FTC.
A federal district court ruled in April 2016 that Amazon billed consumers without authorization, and appeals soon followed, which included the FTC wanting an injunction that would prevent unauthorized future purchases. The FTC voted 2-0 to withdraw its appeal this week.