The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday said it will review complaints by consumer groups that YouTube Kids is a hyper-commercial app with junk food and toy ads flooding the video service.
Several consumer advocacy groups filed a complaint with the commission saying YouTube's free app that launched in February contains too many ads that young children can't distinguish from entertainment. On television, federal rules keep advertising to a minimum on children's programs but on the app and others like it, the groups say those rules are disregarded.
The FTC said in a statement that it received the complaint and "will review the concerns raised by these groups.”
The consumer protection agency has previously charged Google, YouTube's owner, and other tech giants with deceptive and unfair practices. Last year, for instance, it reached a $19 million settlement with Google for unlawfully billing parents for unauthorized in-app purchases made by children.
YouTube said it has met with FTC officials about YouTube Kids as it routinely does before the launch of many of its new products. The company strongly denies allegations made by the consumer groups that its commercials run afoul of government guidelines. It said the free app, which filters out mature content, provides a free alternative for families.
"While we are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app, we were not contacted directly by the signers of this letter and strongly disagree with their contentions, including the suggestion that no free, ad-supported experience for kids will ever be acceptable," YouTube said in a statement. "We disagree and think that great content shouldn't be reserved for only those families who can afford it."