A woman was charged thousands of dollars by apples after her six-year-old racked up in-app purchases on his favourite video game. While playing Sonic Forces, a game from SEGA, on her iPad, Jessica Johnson’s son made multiple purchases, reaching as high as $600 and leaving his mom with a bill of more than $16,000.
Ms Johnson, a resident of Wilton, Connecticut, said that over the summer, her son George spent a total of $16,293.10 in Apple App Store charges to purchase rings on Sonic Forces.
He was able to do so without her credit card as Ms Johnson’s PayPal account was linked to the iPad.
She shared her experience in a Facebook group for mothers in hopes she could keep this incident from happening to others, but was also told by her bank that she would have to contact Apple to secure a refund.
On July 9, Ms Johnson noticed the same charge of $106.34 appear on her bank statement 12 times in a row.
In a transaction report from Ms Johnson with ABC’s Good Morning America, there were also lesser charges of $53.16 and several more in the $200 to $600 range.
After reaching out to both SEGA and Apple, the real estate broker was called by the phone company on Tuesday last week, where they agreed to refund her a portion of her money.
Speaking to the broadcaster, she said: “As a mother of young children, I thought it was important for other parents to be aware of it.
“It’s unfortunate, because we’re all in a pandemic, we’re all working from home. We are working really hard to keep our kids entertained while getting work done.
“We’re [sometimes] inclined to say, ‘Here, take the iPad.’ I think, clearly, it backfired in my case.”
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Apple told GMA they provided a refund for all the charges the company was able to identify, and Ms Johnson added: “They refunded me back 10,553.86.”
It comes after Epic Games, developers of smash hit video game Fortnite, agreed to pay close to $520 million over allegations it violated children’s privacy laws and tricked customers into shelling out millions of dollars via misleading microtransactions.
The Federal Trade Commission said in a statement on Monday that Epic used confusing and inconsistent button configurations to trick players into unwanted payments.
For example, users could be charged for attempting to wake the game up from sleep mode, the agency said.
The agreement over misleading gaming practices orders Epic refund consumers $245 million, the largest refund amount in a gaming case in the FTC’s history.
The FTC said refunds will be made available to the following people:
- Parents whose children made an unauthorized credit card purchase in the Epic Games Store between January 2017 and November 2018
- Fortnite players who were charged in-game currency (V-Bucks) for unwanted in-game items (such as cosmetics, llamas, or battle passes) between January 2017 and September 2022
- Fortnite players whose accounts were locked between January 2017 and September 2022 after disputing unauthorized charges with their credit card companies.
In a separate finding, the FTC said Epic collected the personal information of children under 13 without notifying their parents or obtaining parental consent.
In addition, the company illegally enabled real-time voice and text communications for children and teens by default.
Epic’s settlement on this charge amounts to $275 million, and requires the company to adopt robust default privacy settings for children and teens, guaranteeing that voice and text communications are turned off by default.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here”, the company said in the statement.
“The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount.
“Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate.
“The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough.”
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