Apple tipped off FTC for Google in-app purchases investigation

Apple suggested that the FTC consider in-app purchases on the Android platform

A freedom of information request set in motion by US news site Politico has uncovered an email Apple sent to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about Google’s Play store business.

Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell emailed FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez shortly after the FTC ruled against applications that allowed in-app purchases without parental permission or knowledge.

The email included an article that criticised Google for similar things that Apple was censured for. “I thought this article might be of some interest, particularly if you have not already seen it,” Sewell wrote.

We have asked both Google and Apple for their reactions, and are waiting for official responses.

Apple agreed to pay back $32 to users in January, after iPad and iPhone owners complained that many apps aimed at children allowed them to make purchases without parental consent, racking up huge bills.

At the time Ramirez said the ruling was a victory for consumers. “This settlement is a victory for consumers harmed by Apple’s unfair billing, and a signal to the business community: whether you’re doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply,” she said. “You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorise.”

The reaction from Apple was one of confusion. An email CEO Tim Cook sent to staffers questioned why the firm was fined so heavily when it had already taken action to appease complainants. “I know this announcement will come as a surprise to many of you since Apple has led the industry by making the App Store a safe place for customers of all ages,” he wrote.

“It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy. However, the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.”

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