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

The agency's recent cases against Apple and Amazon.com involve legitimate business decisions, critics say

By , IDG News Service |  IT Management

Free Time seems to be a better service than the requirements in the Apple settlement, Manne said. "It seems very much like the FTC has a kind of myopic vision of what's appropriate for dealing with this particular in-app purchasing problem, and Kindle Free Time isn't it," he said.

The FTC, in the Apple and Amazon cases, has too aggressively used its authority to police unfair business practices, when all businesses are subject to customer complaints, added James Cooper, a former deputy director in the agency's Office of Policy Planning.

"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."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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