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PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images
PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

Amazon to Refund Parents Whose Children Made In-App Purchases Without Permission

PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images
PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon on behalf of millions of parents whose kids spent money on in-app purchases without permission, on the grounds that the tech company made it far too easy for children to run up unlimited charges without any kind of permission from the account holder. Now, a federal judge has ruled that Amazon needs to set up a payment plan for the eligible customers to begin in 2017, Reuters reports.

The FTC alleged that, beginning in 2011, Amazon’s lack of parental permission guards resulted in $86 million in unauthorized charges for mobile games targeted toward kids like "Ice Age Village," and subsequent updates to the in-app purchase process did little to fix the issue. According to the FTC, "kids’ games often encourage children to acquire virtual items in ways that blur the lines between what costs virtual currency and what costs real money." A 2012 update to the charge system limited the amount of money kids could spend without parental permission, but still allowed charges of up to $20 without any kind of approval from a parent’s account. Internal communications from Amazon show that employees knew the extent of the problem, and likened the situation to "near house on fire."

A U.S. district judge in Seattle found the company liable in April 2016, and has now ordered the company to begin paying out eligible customers. Regulators had argued for a $26.5 million lump-sum payout, but the judge found those damages to be too high. Instead, the company will have to alert customers who are eligible starting next year, and begin reimbursing them in cash (not gift cards, as Amazon requested).

Amazon is not the first tech company to be held accountable for profits reaped from kids buying digital goods without their parents’ knowledge. Apple and Google have previously been targeted by the FTC over similar issues, and began paying refunds out in 2014.

[h/t Reuters]

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The Force Field Cloak
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Design
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.

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JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images
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holidays
The Most Popular Holiday Toys of the Past 35 Years
JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images
JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images

From Tamagotchis to Teddy Ruxpin, everyone remembers the most coveted holiday toys from their childhood—the toys that, whether you knew it then or not, your parents stood in line for hours to buy or paid premium prices for (it's not too late to thank them).

Online coupon site and shopping portal Ebates took a festive walk down memory lane to pay tribute to the most impossible-to-find toys of holiday seasons past, beginning with 1983's Cabbage Patch Kids craze and leading up to last year's Nintendo NES Classic. How many did you own?

The Most Popular Toys Through the Decades

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