With a boon in technology, parents of all ages and generations are learning to cope and raise their children between two worlds; the digital and the real world. Parents are becoming equipped with digital solutions to child entertainment with tools like smartphones and tablets as means of distraction. Some parents find themselves learning the ins and outs of social media as they attempt to monitor their child’s wellbeing online. For other parents, the lessons learned about parenting between the two worlds are rough and often times financially costing. In recent news, we’ve seen class action lawsuits levied at companies like Google and Apple for their lax in-app purchase policies. Well it looks like Microsoft has caught the ire of some angry parents for being among some of the tech companies that make it just a bit harder to parent for some.
Jeremy Hillman, a former Bill and Melinda Gates foundation employee and parent, has taken to his blog today to express his current frustration with Microsoft and specifically the Xbox team. In a descriptive and well written post, Jeremy discusses a situation he and his family found themselves in, resulting in a $4,500 bill of in-app purchases made to the Xbox team.
Jeremy recalls the events:
“A while later I managed to start a Live-chat with a Microsoft agent and explained the situation. The agent was helpful and said she’d log the incident and someone would get back to me, but as we were finishing the chat she dropped the bombshell. ‘What about the other charges?’ she asked. ‘Which other charges?’ I replied. “If you click through at the bottom of the page (she had helped me log onto my son’s account during the call) you’ll see all the other charges”. With horror I started scrolling through pages of charges — $109, $109, $109 — sometimes two a day. More than $4,500 of charges for virtual FIFA players going back several months. I shouted for my wife, my son was inconsolable.”
Jeremy is quick to point out himself and his wife’s roll in the financial mishap but he is also calling out Microsoft for their position in all of this. He feels that Microsoft, while maintaining a clearly stated purchase policy of non-refundability, should step up and make some changes to the way they handle in-app purchases or the use of stored credit card information.
“Our policy states that all purchases are final and non-refundable. A purchase confirmation email was sent to email: [email protected] (my son) each time a purchase was made because that is the email that was designated as a contact email on the billing profile …….. you are responsible for any material that a user of your Services account accesses or is denied access to (including as a result of your use or non-use of Parental Controls). You acknowledge that use of our settings is not a substitute for your personal supervision of minors that use your Services account.”
"In truth my wife and I should have paid a little more attention"
Jeremy offers his thoughts as to what he thinks Microsoft should do in order to help parents who have children with itchy trigger fingers. “With all the brilliance of your engineers and sophisticated systems to protect data how hard could it be to put a realistic ceiling on what can be spent on in-app purchases before the credit card details and security code need to be re-entered? Most apple –iTunes purchases need a password to be re-entered for each new purchase.
How many users legitimately spend thousands of dollars on in-app purchases and just how much usage would it actually take for you to flag this as unusual behavior and require confirmation that the purchase is legitimate? Banks and credit card companies regularly do this — there can’t be many reasons you don’t.”
As Jeremy lays forth a valid argument for frustrated parents who have children that have racked up mountains of debt through easily accessible in-app purchases, he also acknowledges that his arguments will crash up against the sheer wall of people who find the one-click convenience too overwhelming of a proposition. For adult gamers whom don’t have children or have a different system in place for how they allow their children to engage with digital content, Jeremy’s complaints are non-issues.
The part of Jeremy’s post that is a bit confusing though is how he openly admits that “In truth my wife and I probably should have paid a little more attention - he was endlessly talking about the players and their stats - but new house, new jobs meant he was left to his own devices more than usual,” yet he ends his post searching for a lawyer to file a class action lawsuit against Microsoft.
In his proposed suit he’d like to force Microsoft into compensation and adopting better policies in the future.