Apple refuses to refund mother whose six-year-old boy spent $16,000 on Sonic Forces

midian182

Posts: 6,786   +61
Staff member
Facepalm: If parents of mobile game-loving kids needed another warning to turn off in-app purchases, here it is: a six-year-old Connecticut boy spent $16,000 on Sonic Forces using his mother's credit card.

The New York Post reports that George Johnson from Wilton, Connecticut, used mom Jessica's iPad and card to make the purchases during July. In Sonic Forces, these start at $1.99 and reach $99, allowing access to more characters and more speed.

While working from home during the pandemic, Jessica didn't realize George was spending hundreds of dollars at a time, including racking up $2,500 across 25 charges in one day alone. "It's like my 6-year-old was doing lines of cocaine—and doing bigger and bigger hits," Jessica said. "These games are designed to be completely predatory and get kids to buy things. What grown-up would spend $100 on a chest of virtual gold coins?"

When Jessica saw hundreds of dollars charged to her Chase account from Apple and PayPal, she assumed it was fraud and called the bank. "The way the charges get bundled made it almost impossible [to figure out that] they were from a game," she said.

Jessica filed a fraud claim in July when the charges reached $16,293.10, but it took until October before Chase told her to contact Apple. It was only after an agent from the Cupertino company went through the charges and Jessica saw a Sonic icon did she realize who was responsible.

"My son didn't understand that the money was real," she told the Post. "He's playing a cartoon game in a world that he knows is not real. Why would the money be real to him? That would require a big cognitive leap."

It seems that Apple wasn't too sympathetic to Jessica's situation, pointing to the 60-day window for claiming money back as to why they won't refund the charges. 'The reason I didn't call within 60 days is because Chase told me it was likely fraud—that PayPal and Apple.com are top fraud charges,' Jessica explained.

Despite revealing she wouldn't be able to pay her mortgage, Apple told Jessica, whose husband looks after the two children full time, that she should have turned off in-app purchases in the settings. "Obviously, if I had known there was a setting for that, I wouldn't have allowed my 6-year-old to run up nearly $20,000 in charges for virtual gold rings," she said.

When George was confronted about his spending, he promised to pay her back. "How? I pay him $4 to clean his room! I literally told George, 'I don't know about Christmas,'" but Jessica still believes the fault lies solely with Apple. "I may have to force this kid to pay me back in 15 years when he gets his first job," she joked (presumably).

Despite the warnings, the incident is the latest example of what happens when kids have access to their parents' payment methods. Back in June, a dad discovered his 11-year-old daughter spent almost $6,000 on Roblox. There was also a teen who "unknowingly" spent $8,000 on one of the FIFA games, and another 11-year-old who blew almost $7,500 on microtransactions over two weeks.

Image credit: Stock-Asso

Permalink to story.

 

stewi0001

Posts: 2,595   +2,198
Fault doesn't solely lay on one person or company here. My wife and I are a bit more technology savvy than the parents in the article apparently. We know what games they have on their iPads and we do not allow them to play games like this. However we do also have the in-app purchases turned off too.

As for companies they make it a bit too easy to spend money but that's what most of them want. Hopefully with this mother's story circulating the news, maybe apple or who ever published sonic forces (Sega?), will actually do the right thing.
 

xenonxenonxenon

Posts: 7   +10
While I do feel sorry for the family, I don't think the blame lies with Apple. Also, I don't know why she didn't contact Apple right away and not wait months. I would have contacted both the bank and Apple if it was me. Then again, I don't have kids and would not have been in this position in the first place.

There are steps you can go through that will prevent this type of thing. This is on the parents to make sure security is tightened. You have the option to always require password or require after 15 minutes in the settings.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204030
 

No Longer Human

Posts: 48   +64
While I do feel sorry for the family, I don't think the blame lies with Apple. Also, I don't know why she didn't contact Apple right away and not wait months. I would have contacted both the bank and Apple if it was me.
She did get ahold of her bank. They told her that Apple and PayPal charges of this type are usually fraud. Since she wasn't spending it, I'm guessing she accepted that and thought it was fraud as well.The charges were made in July, she filed a fraud report to her bank in July. She didn't get a reply until October, her bank told her to contact Apple. By then, yes, more than 30 days had elapsed.....
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 2,447   +3,597
Yeah, regardless of blame Apple needs to do the right thing here. The entire system is set up to "game" people, pardon the pun.
How far do we go though? This isnt 2010, smartphones, mobile games with microtransactions, ece have been around long enough that there is an expectation you should know how this stuff works.

Dont give your kid access to your phone with your CC info on it. This is why stuff like the 3DS exists, or cheap tablets. And there are options when you set up your apple ID to require your password before you purchase everything. Short of being totally ignorant of technology, in which case you shouldnt have a smartphone, there is no excuse for this anymore.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,014   +6,783
Ultimately it is the parents responsibility but for Apple to take such a heartless stance, especially at this time of year and with the problem this family faces, they should be taken to task. This is just one of many reasons I stopped doing business with Apple.
 

BSim500

Posts: 793   +1,746
How far do we go though? This isnt 2010, smartphones, mobile games with microtransactions, ece have been around long enough that there is an expectation you should know how this stuff works.
When it comes to completely stupid over-monetization sh*t like "buying coins" to unlock completely fake "timers" that exist for the sake of existing (the gaming equivalent of being sold puncture repair kits by the same guy who spent the previous hour throwing tacks on the road), personally I support the "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure" approach. ;)
 

mgwerner

Posts: 109   +107
Stupid parents = stupid kid. And we will be dealing with the kid at some point in a business where they cannot do simply things like make change or calculate a work order, because mom used an electronic babysitter instead of being a parent. Too busy on InstaTwitFace to pay attention to her kid.
 

madboyv1

Posts: 1,678   +589
"What grown-up would spend $100 on a chest of virtual gold coins?"
They are what the F2P "community" and gacha players call "whales". They usually make up less than 1% or 2% of a game's userbase but contribute the vast majority of the game's revenue. It's not not uncommon at all for character and card collecting games, fueled by boredom, impatience, and/or addiction (gambling or otherwise). Jessica will never read this post, but the answer is a lot more adults than she'd think.

But yeah no, cautionary tales like this have been around since smartphones gained popularity. Apple was dealing with this in court at least as far back as 2011 (though settling in 2013, https://www.slashgear.com/apple-settles-lawsuit-on-in-app-purchases-made-by-kids-26271611/) , and after dozens if not hundreds of examples of this are within a few keystrokes, there really is no excuse for users not protecting purchases on devices accessible by children anymore. Don't let them know CC pins, don't let them know log in information, don't let them know passcodes or passphrases, and turn off automatic purchasing.

As for Apple, $16k is an absolutely ridiculous amount of money. They are in their right to not do anything per terms of service, but I'd try to at least work something out with the parent out of good faith.
 

Hexic

Posts: 956   +1,356
TechSpot Elite
Yet another instance of an ignorant parent in 2020 blaming a company’s service for their own lack of parental oversight.

Perhaps Apple could be nice and help them out, but I understand why they wouldn’t. They would be setting a precedent for everyone else saying, “Hey, if you make a poor life choice, don’t worry - we’ll sacrifice our business model to help you out every time”.

School yourself on basic technology, or the technology will school you. This isn’t Java programming, this is a simplistic payment source check that parents utilize every day when they buy things from their smartphones anyways.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,036   +3,168
The entire ecosystem is set up through Apple including them getting a cut through in app purchases. Everything allowed goes through them. They are ultimately responsible because they need to control everything. Anybody else I would agree with you.
Yes... and if there were multiple complaints about the same vendor, Apple would step in... but your first place to complain has to be the game company...

If you ordered a copy of Windows from BestBuy and didn’t receive it - would you complain to Microsoft?
 

GregonMaui

Posts: 274   +95
Total BS that it is Apple's fault, it has already paid the app developer. don't let your kids buy stuff, if they ordered from Alexa, is that Amazon's fault? But in all seriousness, the app developer and Apple could probably do something, app developer 70%, Apple 30%. Perfect!
 

Toju Mikie

Posts: 186   +168
WOW
Should have just bought the console version...
Only recommendation I have is to ask SEGA... It's worth a try but they might not give the refund
 

fps4ever

Posts: 669   +875
Yes... and if there were multiple complaints about the same vendor, Apple would step in... but your first place to complain has to be the game company...

If you ordered a copy of Windows from BestBuy and didn’t receive it - would you complain to Microsoft?

Do we know she didn't try that as well? Not entirely clear but to use your own words Apple owns the franchise and territories then lets independent franchisee's sell what they want for a cut is more accurate.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,036   +3,168
The dev never replied and Apple didn't care. Even eBay get my money back if they found out it is a scam.

Apple is having a good time. Supported by good loyal fans.
Here is your recourse: first game developer... 2nd Apple... 3rd: Credit Card Company

Credit Card company is the one you'll have the easiest time with - they then investigate the vendor...