If only Amazon could refund people in acorns.
A federal court has ruled the company is liable for millions of dollars worth of “stars,” “doughnuts,” and “acorns,” kids bought through Amazon game apps on their parents’ smartphones. The exact amount the tech giant will have to refund has yet to be determined, but Amazon is officially on the hook.
“It is unreasonable to expect customers to be familiar with the potential to accrue in-app purchases while using apps labeled as ‘FREE,’” Judge John C. Coughenour wrote in his decision.
That decision sided with the Federal Trade Commission, which brought the case two years ago, and argues that games like "Farm Story" and "Pet Shop" targeted children—and then stuck parents with the bill for their ridiculous purchases.
“For example, a child may be prompted to use or acquire seemingly-fictitious currency, including a ‘boatload of doughnuts, a can of stars, and bars of gold,’ but in reality the child is making an in-app purchase using real money,” Coughenour continued.
The FTC on Wednesday said it was “pleased” with the court’s decision, and laid out its next steps—which don’t look good for Amazon.
“We look forward to making a case for full refunds to consumers as a result of Amazon’s actions,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement on Wednesday.
Amazon is not the only tech company to be sued over this issue. Google and Apple both faced the same lawsuit from the FTC, but decided to settle, paying customers back over $50 million.
Amazon chose to fight, and doesn’t even know yet how much it will have to pay for that decision—but if the FTC gets its way, it’ll be a lot more than a can of stars.