Be warned: in-app game purchases can cost you or your kids dearly

Be in the know about what the add-ons cost and make sure you either disable or put restrictions on add-on or in-app purchasing.
Be in the know about what the add-ons cost and make sure you either disable or put restrictions on add-on or in-app purchasing. Photo: iStock.

Game on…but should it be?

If you are a gamer or a parent of one, you should be aware that in-game app purchases can result in a huge bill.

Don’t believe it? Just ask Pembroke, Ont., dad Lance Perkins, who received a nearly $8,000 credit card bill in December 2015.

Perkins’ son had used a credit card given to him by his father for emergencies to buy in-game extras on his Xbox.

Often these games are free but the in-game add-ons available for purchase can easily amount to a large bill. While you can still play these games without the extras, buying add-ons can unlock hidden levels, characters and other bonuses. Multiplayer games are even more enticing, with players trying to be better (or just beat) their friends.

The process to buy add-ons is relatively simple: pay by credit card in the game and the item(s) are then yours to use.

In Canada, these kinds of electronic contracts are allowed through provincial electronic commerce acts. For example, s. 19 of the Electronic Commerce Act of Ontario allows an electronic contract to be formed:

“An offer, the acceptance of an offer or any other matter that is material to the formation or operation of a contract may be expressed,

(a) By means of electronic information or an electronic document; or

(b) By an act that is intended to result in electronic communication, such as,

  • (i) Touching or clicking on an appropriate icon or other place on a computer screen, or
  • (ii) Speaking.”

Many online games require you to register a profile with a valid credit card on the account. They also require you to create a password that is used to verify purchases.

These games also come with disclaimers and settings aimed at preventing unauthorized purchases, which is how companies protect themselves from claims by people who dispute the purchases.

While a contract cannot be made with a minor, if you give your child a credit card and you don’t monitor their usage, you could see surprises like Perkins’ did.

If you claim that you didn’t authorize your child to use your credit card or profile, then your child could be looking at fraud charges. No parent wants that.

So be in the know about what the add-ons cost and make sure you either disable or put restrictions on add-on or in-app purchasing.

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