Google is facing a class action lawsuit filed by parents in the US whose children downloaded a free or modestly-priced game on Google Play, and then chalked up charges for in-app game currency without the parents’ knowledge or authorization, according to a press release issued by law firm Berger & Montague.

GigaOm reports that the lawsuit stemmed from a mother in New York, who says her five-year-old son spent $65.95 on in-app purchases while playing “Marvel Run Jump Smash!” on a Samsung Galaxy tablet.

The lawsuit alleges that Google Play lets users download games for free or at a nominal cost, of which many are engineered to be highly addictive and designed to “induce” in-app purchases. The case claims that the games frequently allow in-app virtual currencies to be bought in large amounts, as much as $100 per purchase or more.

The lawsuit also pins the fault on a lack of stringent password requirements by Google. Google requires users to authenticate their accounts by keying in a password before purchasing or downloading a game, or buying in-app virtual currencies. However, once the password has been entered, Google lets the user of a device make additional purchases for up to thirty minutes without having to key in the password again.

“This practice is designed to enable children to purchase in-game currency without parental permission and without having to enter a password.  The purchases are then billed directly to the parent or guardian,” the law firm says in the press release.

This lawsuit comes a year after Apple agreed to settle a lawsuit with parents claiming that their youths ran up heavy charges on in-app purchases without permission. In light of the lawsuit, Apple also made changes to its app structure to better keep minors from racking up fat bills sans oversight.

Shanon J. Carson, one of the Berger & Monatague attorneys representing the plaintiff suing Google this time round, says:

Google has unfairly profited by marketing free or low-cost games to children and by permitting them to easily rack up charges for worthless in-game currency, by failing to incorporate reasonable controls such as simply requiring the entry of a password…

Google is certainly aware that its primary competitor, Apple, has taken steps to end this unfair practice, and Google should do the same.

Last month, Google made an adjustment to its Play Store to let users know whether an app features in-app purchases or not, perhaps a shot at trying to raise more awareness for consumers.

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