"A federal agency just filed a lawsuit against Amazon for letting children make purchases too easily on mobile devices without their parents' approval.
In a complaint filed Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that the retailing giant has unlawfully charged customers millions of dollars for kids' "in-app purchases" -- buying digital knickknacks while playing games or using apps on devices like Kindle Fire tablets -- that were made without their parents' or the account holders' knowledge.
"In total, parents and other Amazon account holders have suffered significant monetary injury, with thousands of consumers complaining about unauthorized in-app charges by their children, and many consumers reporting up to hundreds of dollars in such charges," the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, contends.
The FTC said that the price of such purchases ranged from 99 cents to $99.99 each.
According to the complaint, making a purchase while playing a game or using an app was as easy as simply closing a pop-up window that had appeared, which allowed children, sometimes too young to even read, to amass charges on their parents' accounts."This is not an entirely new issue: When I was kid, there were widespread stories of children and adolescents racking up hundreds of dollars in charges on pay-per-minute 900-lines. These phone lines were sometimes sexual in nature (an obvious appeal to adolescent boys). Others gave celebrity or sports information; some dispensed dubious advice and astrological predictions.
In other words, the American home has long contained devices that unsupervised children can access to unwanted and cost-incurring ends.
Back to the Amazon issue: This looks like one of those cases where both sides share some blame. Could Amazon have inserted more safeguards? I'm sure they could have.
On the other hand, parents need to take responsibility for their children's computer and phone activity.
That might start with limiting the time their children spend either web-surfing or gaming.
This would avoid problems like the above one, and it would also improve the fitness level of a young generation of couch potatoes.