Tough love from Apple for big-spending 6-year-old’s mom

From Hypebeast’s “Apple Rejects Refund from Parent Whose 6-Year-Old Spent $16K USD on ‘Sonic Forces’” posted Wednesday:

George started playing Sonic Forces earlier this year on his mother’s iPad. All was well and good until George started getting curious and decided to explore the game’s settings. Unfortunately for his mother, George came across performance-boosting products (ranging from $2 – $100 USD) that made the game a lot more fun. There was one day where George managed to purchase $2,500 USD worth of in-game products, only to surprise Johnson’s mother when the credit card bill came out.

Not knowing where the charge had come from, Jessica notified her bank where she was advised to file a claim for suspected fraud. Four months later, the bank figured out the charges came from her own Apple account, from her son’s Sonic game.

By this point, Jessica had already passed Apple’s 60-day policy, which meant Apple could not issue a refund.

“They told me that because I didn’t call within 60 days of the charges, they can’t do anything,” told Jessica to the press. “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.” An Apple rep told Jessica that there were parental controls on her device that she should’ve set. “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. “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?”

My take:  The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from Cupertino.

20 Comments

  1. Bart Yee said:
    “What grown-up would spend $100 on a chest of virtual gold coins?”

    Guess she doesn’t know about Fortnite.

    2
    December 16, 2020
  2. Bart Yee said:
    Another case of a parent not understanding how to manage tech for children and adolescents. And for sure, not setting parental controls, spending limits or permissions, and isolating her credit card or Apple accounts from in app purchases – a costly mistake. The bill should have been a huge warning to look into her Apple devices. I’m sure she probably played some Candy Crush in the past.

    Chase bears some responsibility too for not advising closing down credit card and getting a new one, plus checking her Apple account. A few simple clicks or paying attention to her Apple account would have revealed all the expenditures.

    4
    December 16, 2020
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      A few simple clicks or paying attention to her Apple account would have revealed all the expenditures.

      Apple confirms all purchases via email to the account holder of record.

      No sympathy here.

      4
      December 16, 2020
  3. David Emery said:
    “past 60 days” – this implies to me that she wasn’t paying much attention to her credit card bills.

    4
    December 16, 2020
  4. Alan Levy said:
    While I probably agree with the tough love approach, it does seem like there could be some safeguards put in place by Apple to prevent this if for no other reason than to prevent the negative PR that their response generates. They could require, for instance, for app developers to put code in their app that requires sign-offs and warnings when the app is downloaded using the parental permission routine. Parents, for example, could be required to sign off on an amount that, if triggered, sends a message to the parent’s email that the app was used to purchase that amount or more. This would place the responsibility for monitoring squarely in the hands of the parent and the app developer–where it belongs rather than with Apple or a credit card company.

    2
    December 16, 2020
  5. Jerry Doyle said:
    “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.”

    One would think as soon as the mother heard “apple.com” that the good woman would have connected the dots between the charges, her iPad and her son’s extensive use of the device irregardless of the Chase representative saying it likely was fraud related through PayPal and Apple. She didn’t connect the dots and occasionally we all are guilty of brainlessness.

    I’m reminded of that video this weekend where Steve Jobs discusses “privacy,” and how Apple strives to protect its users’ privacy. Steve stated that we clue the user in on the app’s seeking your personal data and we ask your permission. We keep asking and we keep asking until the user is tired of us asking. There IS a concomitant responsibility here for Apple to ensure the user is cognizant fully of charges and especially when there are a multiplicity of charges accumulating rapidly.

    Continue….

    3
    December 16, 2020
  6. Jerry Doyle said:
    Continue…

    There are credit card companies, gaming institutions, retail outlets and others responsible entities that send a red alert if excessive charges are occurring and intercede to ensure the charges are authorized. If Apple is as concern about users’ privacy as they are in protecting user potential exploitation through benign monitoring neglect of devices, then some form of intervention is needed in these situations as I can see clearly how this poor woman is shocked. Does she have responsibility over that Apple device and of monitoring her child’s use of that device? Certainly she does. Who among us, though, can say “… there but for the grace of God goes my busy daughter juggling her responsibility of family, work, child rearing and all the other craziness in our daily activities of living.”

    $20,000 should have alerted the app developer, Apple, the credit card company, the bank or someone to raise a yellow flag to ask as Steve Jobs says Apple should ask repeatedly until they are tired of us asking, do you know the charges that you are incurring? Call this number until further authorization is permitted. When the 6 year old called then the Apple representative or whoever, would have asked to speak with the adult in the home.

    Continue…

    1
    December 16, 2020
  7. Jerry Doyle said:
    Continue…

    If I were an Apple Executive I would examine what procedures can we establish to avoid these type of incidences and I would mediate a settlement with the mother to reach a consensus to preclude this kind of negative publicity broadcast during the Holiday Season when as a company WE are trying to sell more of these devices to families trapped in their homes during COVID-19.

    5
    December 16, 2020
  8. Gregg Thurman said:
    APPLE CONFIRMS ALL PURCHASES VIA EMAIL. What part of that don’t people get?

    I smell a publicity seeking Mom, embarrassed to admit SHE spent the money.

    4
    December 16, 2020
    • Dan Scropos said:
      Yup. This is a hit job.

      And just think how much money she could have saved with an Apple Card.

      3
      December 16, 2020
    • Jonny Tilney said:
      Totally Gregg. How on earth could she have dismissed what must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of emails?

      That said, I have no time for these ongoing purchases within games, designed as they are to beguile simpletons.

      3
      December 16, 2020
    • S Lawton said:
      Moms and email. Some aren’t going to pay attention to the bulk of it as most is junk. Apple proactively works to protect your privacy but it does have a process in place to protect against fraudulent charges? Why are parental charges opt in instead of opt out? Didn’t the major platforms already face similar concerns previously?

      0
      December 16, 2020
      • Bart Yee said:
        @S Lawton “Why are parental charges opt in instead of opt out? Didn’t the major platforms already face similar concerns previously?”

        Good question but EXACTLY the issue with in-app purchases AND Apple’s new privacy changes so still very currently apropos.

        Also, no parent male or female should ever assume their kids couldn’t do something like this. My 4 year old granddaughter finds these in-app purchases for tokens, extra plays, more lives, multiplier powers, etc. in every game or level played on even the most innocuous of games like Candy Crush, Farm Heroes. Even my wife’s word puzzle games have similar offers for hints, extra plays, etc. This is completely built into the business models of all “free” or “freemium” software, apps or games predicated on impulse buying rather than subscription which sometimes are longer term commitments on the buyer’s part.

        0
        December 16, 2020
  9. Timothy Smith said:
    I once represented a man who received a check in his name, Larry Smith, that was intended for Marvin Smith, who had actually performed the work. Larry, having never seen that much money in his life, cashed the check and took his girlfriend to a fancy restaurant, among other things. The money was all gone by the time the mistake was discovered. Larry was charged with theft. I argued that theft is taking property without the consent of the owner, and that the check, by definition, was consent to take the money. The judge ruled one cannot give consent by mistake and sent Larry to jail.

    1
    December 16, 2020
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      The judge ruled one cannot give consent by mistake and sent Larry to jail.

      Deservedly so. Common sense says that Larry had never seen that much money, ergo it wasn’t his to take.

      Now had it been me, I would have invested the money until the mistake was discovered, gave the money to its rightful owner, and kept the profits. : ) Larry erred by going on a self-indulgent spending spree.

      4
      December 16, 2020
      • Kirk DeBernardi said:
        @ Gregg Thurman —

        Speaking of common sense, wouldn’t you agree that making an effort to find the true payee of the check is the best common sense?

        0
        December 17, 2020
  10. Alessandro Luethi said:
    Another aspect to consider: she seems to absolutely not take care of the amount of time her son is spending online and what type of games he is playing!

    1
    December 16, 2020
  11. John Konopka said:
    I have mixed feelings about this. The mom certainly deserves a lot of scorn and blame for not paying attention. On the other hand, I’ve done a lot of customer support over the last three decades and there are times when s*** happens. Maybe she was stressed with work or other stuff and didn’t pay as much attention as she should have. Maybe she didn’t have the particular information she needed to connect the dots. Or maybe she is scamming Apple. I always gave the customer a huge amount of leeway and tried to understand their point of view before the tough love started. You run the experiment of kids and iPads several hundred thousand times and maybe you get this once in a while.

    3
    December 16, 2020
  12. Michael Goldfeder said:
    On the bright side, it just shows how little that Apple misses the presence of Epic games on its App Store. Apparently the gaming public agrees. After all, its patently obvious that this “6” year old clearly didn’t want to waste his mother’s money on an inferior gaming product!

    1
    December 16, 2020
  13. Greg Bates said:
    Then there is the question of what the parent and child got for their not so cheap lesson. Consider:

    1. This is the story of a lifetime that will be talked about in the family for lifetimes. Everything from how not to manage your money to how not to manage your time. If the kid–or any other family member–takes these lessons to heart, it could be worth millions to him.

    2. Anyone can make the case that these games are time-wasters. But consider one thing this episode says about this six-year-old: he has focus. That is rare at their age, rare at any age. Apply that focus to other issues and it could be extraordinarily valuable.

    3. What if the kid has found his calling and builds a video game company that gobbles up the world? At some future point in time, and from his perspective as a billionaire founder, looking back at this $16k expenditure could suggest it was not only worthwhile but pivotal.

    4. What if the kid then sells his company to… Apple? That might constitute revenge of the sweetest kind.

    Some calamities are not what they seem. Time will tell.

    0
    December 17, 2020

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