Stories of parents discovering that their children have managed to rack up enormous bills on in-app purchases with Xbox or similar stuffs using their parent’s credit cards are not new. Similar story came into picture recently which was quite a high profile case, involving Jeremy Hillman, Director of Communications for the World Bank Group, whose son managed to spend over $4,500 on digital content purchased on his Xbox before his parents noticed.
In his private post, Hillman explained how – while checking his credit card bill – he spotted four charges of $109 each from Microsoft in just two days. While he initially believed it to be a billing error related to his Office 365 subscription, it didn’t take long for his son to shed light on the matter.
“I suspect I’m not alone in failing to check my credit card statements very carefully every month — busy job, never enough time to spend with my wife and teenage kids, let alone deal with the endless stream of admin tasks. So it was unusual that I actually spent a couple of minutes glancing at my last credit card bill and noticed four consecutive charges over two days for $109 from Microsoft. I initially thought it must be a glitch in the renewal of my Office 365 subscription — I’m a happy Microsoft user and am writing this on Word right now. A quick check showed it couldn’t have been that. When I heard my son meekly call out for his mother from his bedroom after hearing me start to rant it there was clearly another explanation. What he had been doing was purchasing FIFA player packs. He tearfully told me that he’d tried to buy a player pack for $100 but it hadn’t worked and so he tried a couple more times. Knowingly trying to spend $100 would have been bad enough but if he was telling the truth then this was a one-off aberration — and Microsoft would surely compensate us for the failed purchases.”
It was only when he contacted Microsoft to request compensation that he was informed of “all the other charges” that had been adding up: “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”
Hillman accepted his responsibility in error saying that he and his wife as parents should have paid more attention to their child, but he also claims that Microsoft bears some of the responsibility too, and alleges that the company has mishandled the whole situation.
“We accept our responsibility in this. We should have paid much closer attention to his video gaming, and my son accepts his responsibility and punishment. But again where was Microsoft in this? What was their responsibility? The treatment we have had at the hands of Microsoft has been appalling. On the first live-chat we were assured we’d be contacted within three days. That never happened.”
He went on to explain that, after speaking with someone else a week later, he had to wait several days more for the case to be referred to a Microsoft ‘escalation analyst’, who explained Microsoft’s Policy on same and was sheer waste of time.
In his post, he openly challenged Microsoft to answer his questions “on behalf of the thousands and thousands of parents who have fallen into this same situation”:
“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 apples –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 of Xbox 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.”
In his conclusion, Hillman alleged Microsoft of running away from its responsibility to protects and safeguards its customers since that would risk the ratio of Microsoft’s Profit margin and also went on to openly advertise an opening for his lawyer position against giant industry.
“If Microsoft wanted to spare thousands of parents from frustration, anger and sometimes, serious financial consequences then it could find a hundred ways to do it. It has just chosen not to. Microsoft made a decision based on profit maximization and adhering to the minimum legal requirements. If there’s a lawyer out there that wants to start a class-action against Microsoft and force them into compensation and adopting a better policy I’ll happily sign- up.”
Source: Jeremy Hillman (@Medium)