In yet another story that demonstrates both a clear lack of parental supervision over digital devices and a company’s ability to prey on addicts of free-to-play games, a 15-year-old boy in Belgium racked up a credit card bill of 37,000 Euros (over $46,000) while playing Machine Age’s “Game of War: Fire Age” online strategy game.
According to Flemish publication Nieuwsblad, the teenager used his grandfather’s credit card to purchase in-game gold that would improve his performance within the game. While free to download and play, the in-game gold purchases help a player build a city as well as an army to compete more effectively against opponents, similar to the “Civilization” franchise.
Recounting the events that led to the teen gaining access to the credit card, his mother said “When I was planning to go on vacation, I asked Robin to install some e-books on my tablet, something I don’t know how to do myself. To buy these books I have given him the credit card of my father.” According to his mother, the boy also added the credit card number to his personal iTunes account, which was linked to his mobile device.
Speaking about the in-game experience, his mother continued “While you are playing, tons of advertisements are displayed, there is even an in-game casino that you can play. You only have to click once to make a purchase and real money is being spent, which was exactly what he did again and again, not knowing how much money he was actually spending as nothing shows what the amount is that you already payed.”
Oddly enough, the mother claims she didn’t know that her son was making the purchases until a few months later, despite the purchases being racked up over a three-month period. The teen also claims he wasn’t aware that purchases were being made through the credit card.
It’s possible that Apple could refund the hefty cost of the purchases. Apple reached an agreement with the FTC earlier this year to pay more than $32 million back to parents of children that overspent on iOS devices.