Mother sues Google over kids’ apps after 5-year-old son buys $65 worth of virtual currency

BB10 Google Play

A New York woman whose child spent $65.95 on digital “Crystals” has filed a lawsuit on behalf of other parents across the U.S., claiming the Google Play store is full of games and apps that lure children into spending money.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday in San Francisco, claims the woman’s five-year old son spent the money while playing “Marvel Run Jump Smash!” on a Samsung Galaxy tablet, and accuses Google of unjust enrichment and violating consumer protection laws.

The case mirrors a similar case brought against Apple over so-called “bait apps” that are typically free to obtain but encourage users to spend money within the game. Apple paid $5 million to settle the case in 2013 and also paid a related $32.5 million fine early this year.

In the case of Google, users typically enter a password to make a purchase, but this is not the case during a 30 minute “window” following an initial purchase. During the window period, the game maker can offer users — including children — an opportunity to buy things without re-entering the password, such as these digital treats in the “Pet Hotel” game cited in the lawsuit:

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 6.38.08 PM

As the screenshot above shows, such games can offer bulk purchases, such as 1,500 “treats” for $99.99. As a result, it is easy for kids to rack up hundreds of dollars on their parents’ credit card. The issue was the subject of a Daily Show feature, and also befell my colleague Kevin Tofel — whose daughter spent $375 on digital fish (money he will likely recoup as a result of the legal action).

Apple long ago closed its 15-minute window during which users could make purchases without entering a password. In the lawsuit against Google, however, the mother claims that the company’s 30-minute purchase window is still open. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update: Google has reportedly pushed out an Android update that prompts users for a password at every purchase.

You can read the lawsuit, which was spotted by Law360, for yourself here:

Google App Class Action

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