More evidence of the Windows Phone app gap: FTC doesn't bother to sue Microsoft

The government goes where the money is -- and it's now in the Windows Phone Store.

Here's one more piece of evidence that Windows Phone lags far iOS and Android in app availability: The FTC, which has gone after Google, Apple, and Amazon for unlawful app billing, hasn't even bothered to target Microsoft.

Yesterday Google paid $19 million to settle an FTC complaint which alleged that Google unfairly charged owners of Android devices whose children had made in-app purchases. Google agreed to refund the owners, and to also change its practices so that informed consent is gotten from customers before items are bought from inside mobile apps.

The suit concerns Google Play, the Android store owned by Google. In a press release, the FTC noted:

Many thousands of consumers complained to Google about children making unauthorized in-app charges, according to the complaint. Some parents noted that their children had spent hundreds of dollars in in-app charges without their consent. Others noted that children buying virtual in-game items with real money were unaware they were causing their parents to be billed.

Google employees referred to the issue as “friendly fraud” and “family fraud” in describing kids’ unauthorized in-app charges as a leading source of refund requests, according to the complaint. The complaint further alleges that Google’s practice has been to refer consumers seeking refunds first to the app developer.

The FTC has also gone after Apple and Amazon for similar reasons. Apple settled with the FTC to the tune of $32.5 million.

Amazon, though, refused to settle with the FTC, and the FTC has brought a lawsuit against it.

Where's Microsoft in all this? Nowhere. The FTC hasn't gone after it. One possible reason is that Microsoft does a better job of protecting against children making in-app purchases. But another one, more likely, is that not many children use Windows Phone apps because there are so few games available on it, and because Windows Phone has such a dismal market share.

An analysis by WPCentral found that none of the 13 most popular free iOS games are available on Windows Phone. As for market share, Windows Phone has only 3.9% market share in the U.S. in July, find Kantar WorldPanel, while Android has 62.9%, and iOS 30.9%.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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