The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Google facing US legal action from angry parents

Internet search giant Google is facing legal action in the United States from parents who are angry that children have been able to make purchases using games without obtaining their permission, reports the BBC.

A mother from New York is filing a legal action against Google, claiming that the internet company are responsible for the fact her five-year-old son was able to spend £39 on in-game purchases within minutes of buying one of Google's game titles.

The game in question is Marvel's Run Jump Smash, which the five-year-old downloaded from Google's Play store. Normally the game would require a password in order to allow users to make purchases, but there is a 30-minute window after purchasing the game in which extras can be bought without an additional password.

There is a precedent for such a case, reports the BBC, after Apple agreed to pay $32m back to users in similar circumstances. In one case an Apple customer had received a bill for over $2,000 for in-game purchases made by her daughter.

American law firm Berger & Montague, who are representing parents in the case, said in a statement: "Google has unfairly profited by marketing free or low-cost games to children and by permitting them to easily rack up charges for worthless in-game currency, by failing to incorporate reasonable controls such has requiring the entry of a password."

At present, technology companies are free to produce software in whatever way they see fit, but in the UK the Office of Fair Trading has released guidelines to advise game-makers on how to make in-game purchasing fair.

The OFT has given companies selling into UK markets until the end of this month to comply with these guidelines.