After Apple agreed to shell out $32.5 million to settle federal regulatory complaints concerning unauthorized purchases, the commission then pointed its finger at Google and now the search engine company has come to terms with the Federal Trade Commission.
Google will pay $19 million to consumers whose children bought items inside of apps without parental consent.
The $19 million figure is the lowest Google has to pay to settle the matter although it could, out of the goodness of its heart, elect to pay out more -- the FTC is leaving it up to Google, per the terms of the settlement.
What's not left up to Google, if it intends to put the matter to bed, are orders to improve its billing practices and remit invoices for the payouts. Barring an appeal to close the case on the grounds that all of the conditions have been met, the terms of the settlement extend 20 years from the date the document is filed.
During the settlement's 20-year-life, Google has to report to the FTC any organizational changes that could affect its ability to maintain the billing standards set by the agreement (PDF). If ordered over the first five years of the settlement, Google will have to produce business records that show the company has been complying with the terms of the settlement.
The allegations against Google's handling of in-app purchases go back as far as 2011, when parents first complained that there were no safeguards preventing children from purchasing digital currency with debit and credit cards associated with the account holder's mobile device.
In 2012, Google was said to have rolled out a password protection mechanism to ensure that in-app purchases were made by account holders. The pop-up password prompt made no mention of possible charges and in-app purchases could be made up to half an hour after a credentials were entered.
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez indicated the investigation of Google and other digital merchants is an effort to keep consumer safeguards in place, even on rapidly evolving platforms.
"For millions of American families, smartphones and tablets have become a part of their daily lives," said Ramirez. "As more Americans embrace mobile technology, it's vital to remind companies that time-tested consumer protections still apply, including that consumers should not be charged for purchases they did not authorize."
The FTC has also been investigating Amazon's policies on in-app purchases and has filed suit, though the United States' largest online retailer said in July its business practices have been sound and it has no intention of settling.