If You Give A Kid Credit Card Access, You Better Know How In-App Purchases Work

by Ashley Austrew

A Canadian dad is livid after his son spent thousands of dollars on an Xbox game.

Another day, another chance for kids to rack up thousands of dollars of credit card debt via in-app and in-game purchases. This time, it was a 17-year-old from Ontario, and the amount of money he spent is truly unbelievable.

The teen’s dad, Lance Perkins, was shocked recently when he got a credit card bill in the mail for almost $8,000. Turns out his son was unknowingly making purchases on a FIFA soccer video game on his Xbox. The teen had a credit card from his dad for emergency purchases, but he was using it to purchase things on his gaming system without permission, and boy, did he really screw up. He apparently paid what he thought was a one-time fee, but was actually being charged every single time he logged into the game.

The result was $7,625.88 in charges, which neither Xbox nor the credit card company will overturn. Perkins tried to get Xbox representatives to change their minds because his son is a minor, but so far the family hasn’t heard anything back. He tells CBC News it’s “very discouraging” because his son didn’t realize his mistake. “He’s just as sick as I am,” says Perkins. “He never believed he was being charged for every transaction, or every time he went onto the game.”

In-app and in-game purchases have become a point of contention for parents in recent years. John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in Ottawa, spoke to CBC and said that cases of accidental purchases by both kids and adults are “easily in the tens of thousands.” In the U.S., it’s become such a problem that parents have started complaining to the Federal Trade Commission that in-app purchases are a “deceptive business practice.”

The thing is, these in-app and in-game purchases aren’t a new concept. We all know what they are by now, and we’ve seen dozens of cases like this over the years. In fact, just a few weeks ago a father was in the news because his son spent almost $6,000 playing Jurassic World on his iPhone. In both of these cases, there was some obvious oversight by the parents and, as much as it sucks, the gaming companies just aren’t responsible.

If you give your child access to your credit cards and unsupervised time with a gaming account, only bad things can come from that situation. That’s why they make parental controls, passwords, and offer to email you whenever a new purchase is made: it’s so you can manage your accounts and keep an eye on transactions. We have ways to ensure our kids don’t rack up a thousand dollar bill on game purchases. Our failure to use those safeguards isn’t any company’s fault.

Before parents allow their kids access to any sort of app or video game, they need to make sure they understand how in-app purchases work and that they’ve set all the necessary parental controls. No one wants to pay $8,000 for a video game, but you don’t get a “get out of jail free” card just because you weren’t paying attention.