Amazon made $70M unlawfully from kids, FTC said. Are you due a refund?

Online retailer Amazon, accused of unlawfully billing parents for more than $70 million in purchases by game-playing kids, has settled a case with federal regulators. Refunds are available.

The deadline for submitting refund requests is May 28, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday.

The charges in question took place between November 2011 and May 2016, officials said.

Amazon has offered many children’s apps for download to mobile devices such as the Kindle Fire, the FTC noted.  Children playing games such as “Ice Age Village” could spend unlimited amounts of money to pay for virtual items such as “coins,” “stars,” and “acorns” without sufficient parental consent, federal officials said in a 2014 complaint.

“Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in 2014.

Last month the FTC and Amazon agreed to end their litigation.

An Amazon spokesman said Tuesday, “Since the launch of the Appstore in 2011, Amazon has helped parents prevent purchases made without their permission by offering access to parental controls, clear notice of in-app purchasing, real-time notification for every in-app purchase and refund assistance for unauthorized purchases. The Court here affirmed our commitment to customers when it ruled no changes to current Appstore practices were required.”

The company spokesman continued, “To continue ensuring a great customer experience, we are happy to provide our customers what we have always provided: refunds for purchases they did not approve. We have contacted all eligible customers who have not already received a refund for unauthorized charges to help ensure their refunds are confirmed quickly.”

The FTC said refund requests can be completed online at https://www.amazon.com/gp/mas/refund-orders/in-apprefund. Customers can go to their Amazon.com accounts and go to the Message Center to find information about requesting a refund under Important Messages. Questions about individual refunds should be directed to Amazon at 866-216-1072, the FTC said.

Abilify drug marketing charges settled with Florida, 42 states

Florida and 42 other states announced Thursday a $19.5 million settlement with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. related to the alleged improper marketing of the drug Abilify to certain elderly patients and children.

“With this multistate settlement, consumers will be armed with better information about medication that could endanger their health,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.

doc-with-drugsAbilify, the brand name for the prescription drug aripiprazole, was initially approved for treating schizophrenia, officials noted.

A complaint by Florida officials alleged the company promoted Abilify for use in elderly patients with symptoms consistent with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease despite a lack of federal approval for those uses. In 2006, Abilify received a boxed warning that such patients who are treated with antipsychotic drugs have an increased risk of death, state officials said.

In addition, the complaint asserted the company promoted Abilify for uses in children in ways that minimized and misrepresented the antipsychotic drug’s risks.

A settlement agreement requires the company to agree to guidelines for promoting “off-label” uses.

In a statement, Bristol-Myers Squibb  said it “denies any wrongdoing, and we are pleased to put this matter behind us so that we can focus on making transformational medicines for patients battling serious diseases.”

The company said it “chose this path to achieve a prompt and full resolution of potential state consumer protection act claims stemming from a multi-state coalition investigation relating to the marketing of Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic medication, which Bristol-Myers Squibb has not marketed since 2013.”

This settlement awaits court approval.