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FTC's in-app purchasing cases ignored consumer benefits, critics say

Grant Gross | Aug. 1, 2014
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission failed to adequately consider the consumer benefits of easy in-app purchases in its recent complaints accusing Apple and Amazon.com of allowing children to buy digital products without parental permission, according to some critics of the agency.

"Is zero consumer complaint where the market needs to go?" Cooper said. "Amazon has this policy, Apple has this policy, and some consumers don't like it, and the FTC thinks we should be down at a zero complaint rate."

Other speakers defended the FTC, saying the agency does weigh the consumer benefits of business practices before bringing complaints. The agency's Bureau of Economics issues independent reports on possible commission actions before the FTC acts, said Martin Gaynor, the bureau's director.

The FTC has worked to protect consumers when there are "a lot of chronic problems in the digital marketplace," added David Balto, a former deputy assistant director in the FTC Office of Policy and Evaluation.

In the Amazon case, if the FTC hadn't filed a complaint, "would there be bad practices that continue?" Balto added. "That would trouble me as a consumer advocate."

 

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