Microtransactions are still new enough that we do not expect non-gaming parents to know to be wary of them. That said, we hope that no parent finds out about microtransactions the same way Ottawa’s Lance Perkins did.
Last month, Perkins was shocked when he discovered a bill from Microsoft with nearly $8,000 in Xbox charges, racked up by his 17 year-old without his knowledge, CBC News reports. On December 23rd, Perkins received a credit card bill for $7,625.88 because his son was using the card to make in-game purchases from one of EA’s FIFA games.
“It floored me. Literally floored me, when I’d seen what I was being charged,” Perkins told CBC News. The son was given the credit card for emergencies or to make purchases for the family’s convenience store. “He thought it was a one-time fee for the game,” Perkins said, adding that his son was equally shocked by how much he had spent in microtransactions. “He’s just as sick as I am, [because] he never believed he was being charged for every transaction, or every time he went onto the game.”
Perkins contacted his credit card company and was told there was nothing it could do unless he wanted to have his son charged with fraud. Perkins also contacted Xbox and the company said the charges would stand. After explaining the situation and clarifying that his son was a minor, Xbox said they would look into the charge, but the family hasn’t heard anything yet.
“Until I actually hear from them, it’s actually very discouraging,” he said.
Microsoft issued a statement in response to the situation, making note of the Xbox’s parental settings, which are designed to prevent minors from making purchases without permission from their parents. “Purchases made using a parent’s payment account are legitimate transactions under the Microsoft Services Agreement, and we encourage parents to use the many platform and service features we make available to prevent unapproved charges,” the statement said.
John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in Ottawa: “Few laws exist in Canada to protect consumers here, so parents should make themselves aware of what games their children are playing and learn what sort of in-game purchases they’re able to make, he urged.”
While the Perkins family waits for a solution to their current problem to emerge, he has a solution to prevent microtransactions leading to further disaster. “There will never be another Xbox system — or any gaming system — in my home.”
Moral of the story: beware of microtransactions.