Parental control

'Google Play Store lets your kid spend like a drunken sailor'

January 17, 2014: 6:53 PM ET

Consumer Reports compared Google's parental controls with Apple's. Guess what.

CR: Your child's stay at The Pet Hotel could be a pricey one.

Your child's stay at the Pet Hotel could be a pricey one.

FORTUNE -- Consumer Reports, which hasn't been particularly kind to the iPhone lately, came to Apple's (AAPL) defense Friday -- two days after the FTC declared a $35.2 million "victory for consumers" against the company.

According to the FTC, Apple failed to warn parents that by entering a password, they weren't just approving a single in-app purchase but were also letting their children make unlimited purchases for 15 minutes without further parental permission.

Is Google (GOOG) Play -- the Android version of the App Store -- any different? The FTC didn't say.

So Consumer Reports' Jeff Fox tried to reproduce on an Android device the horror story cited in the FTC's complaint: The child who managed to spend $2,600 on in-app purchases in the game Pet Hotel before Apple's 15-minute window closed.

On Google Play, it turns out, that window of unsupervised in-app purchasing is twice as long -- a full 30 minutes -- with no dollar limit and no on-screen parental warning. As Consumer Reports' headline put it "Google Play Store lets your kid spend like a drunken sailor."

"So what's the big deal?" Fox asks. "With the same few taps, an unsupervised child could just as easily have bought some Trove of Coins for $49.99 each, or maybe a bunch of Barrel of Treats for $99.99 apiece and run up a bill rivaling that of the girl whose mother had complained to the FTC."

Fox reached the FTC, but no one there would comment on whether there had been complaints about in-app purchases in Android games, or whether the commission might be going after Google next.

LINK: Google Play Store lets your kid spend like a drunken sailor

See also: Apple's kiddie app deal stirs controversy at the FTC

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