Parents of a boy in Jerusalem received an unpleasant surprise in their inbox, a bill from Apple’s App Store to the tune of $4,600 charged over the course of only one weekend. Turns out their eight-year-old son likes playing games. Games with expensive in-game bells and whistles.
According to the parents who recounted their saga to the Israeli website Mako, they first discovered their son had downloaded 2,000 NIS ($550) worth of in-game purchases and extension packages to one of their iPhones. They got that news in the form of an e-mail confirmation of the purchases.
The parents, who didn’t want to be named, say they took their son aside and tried to explain to him that even though his purchases looked virtual, they were costing the family real money.
“He didn’t understand it was something that cost money,” the mom told Mako. “He’s 8-years-old and he doesn’t know how to distinguish between real money and money in the game. The games are based on accumulating diamonds and coins, and he didn’t understand the difference between the coins from the game and their significance and price in reality.”
The parents say they called Apple which agreed to cancel the charge, even though in principle all app purchases are final.
Turns out the lesson the parents imparted to their son wasn’t exactly absorbed. As the Times of Israel quipped, “Your child’s technological savvy does not guarantee a firm grasp of finance.”
And savvy he apparently is. Even after the parents changed the password on their iPhone, their son managed to figure out the new password by watching one of them type it in.
The Times of Israel writes: “one should never underestimate the resourcefulness of a bored eight-year-old.”
Now with free reign of his parents’ account, the boy went on a wild spending spree during the weekend of May 24, grabbing in-game purchases and extension packages for only five games, according to the parents. Mako writes that some of those cost upwards of $100 each. All that clicking over one weekend only generated $4,600 in purchases, the parents say.
The family provided a copy of the bill to Mako (seen above) which shows repeated charges for the games Clash of Clans, Pile of Gems, Jurassic Park Builder, Dragon City Mobile, and others.
This time, Apple was not as willing to forgive the charges, the parents say. Mako explained that per the terms of service agreement signed when setting up an account, all sales are considered final and Apple is not required to cancel any fees, even if a purchase was made unintentionally.
Apple did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment from TheBlaze.
The company is apparently aware of the problem of children buying costly “freemium apps.” Presently, a password needs to be reentered every 15-minutes, but Apple has reportedly discussed reducing the 15-minute purchase window in order to battle the problem of unwanted app purchases.
There was a similar case reported in the UK in February, in which a five-year-old “blew $2,500 on in-game purchases in just 10 minutes.” Apple told the BBC that the money would be refunded to the parents.
Whether the Israeli parents pay the bill or try to appeal again to Apple, the mother is taking responsibility, but criticizes the sellers for tempting young children.
“It’s clear to me that I’m the responsible one here,” said the boy’s mother. “But it also seems like those companies also have a responsibility, [they] who approve games that are basically given for free but then draw kids to spend more and more money. When you purchase a game you know how much it costs. But here the games are tempting children to try to spend more and more money.”