Eight-Year-Old Girl Blows $1400 on Smurfberries

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Eight-Year-Old Girl Blows $1400 on Smurfberries

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U.S. regulators are being asked to look into the situation after an eight-year-old girl purchased $1400 worth of smurfberries in the iPad game Smurfs' Vilage.

Stephanie Kay recently got a rather startling surprise in her email: a $1400 smurfberry bill. The charges were rung up by her eight-year-old daughter, Madison, who apparently didn't realize that although the Capcom game Smurfs' Village is free, smurfberry purchases made within it cost real money. A lot of real money.

"I thought the app preyed on children," Kay said. "Note that the Smurf app states it is for ages 4-plus."

She was given a one-time refund when she brought it to Apple's attention but her situation and others like it have now attracted the attention of two members of the U.S. Congress, who asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the matter.

"I am concerned about how these applications are being promoted and delivered to consumers, particularly with respect to children, who are unlikely to understand the ramifications of in-app purchases," Rep. Edward Markey said in a letter asking the FTC. He wants the Commission to "assess current industry activities in this area to determine whether they constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices."

It does seem a bit odd that a game ostensibly for children would charge $19 for a bucket of snowflakes or $99 for a wagon of smurfberries, but it also bears wondering why she, and other children, are being given access to iPads and online games without supervision. Some parents complain that parental controls are difficult to use or have loopholes, like giving users a 15-minutes window to make purchases without re-entering a password after it's entered once. But those controls are only effective if they're actually used and it's hard to be too critical when "Madison's mother let her download smurfberries with the help of her older sister, who knew the family's iTunes password."

Capcom said instances of accidental online purchases were "lamentable" and has added a disclaimer on the App Store warning that the game is free but in-game purchases are not, along with a pop-up in the game itself reminding players that this stuff actually costs money.

Sources: Washington Post, AFP

Permalink

Is that a mis-print? $99 for virtual Smurfberries? Do the berries do kids homework for them? I mean isn't this virtual item purchasing going a bit too far here.

Andy Chalk:
"I thought the app preyed on children," Kay said.

And yet she still allowed her child to play the game completely unsupervised without bothering to utilize the system's fail safes. Yeah, she gets no sympathy from me. It's just one more parent teaching kids they shouldn't be held accountable for their actions or inactions through the process known as example.

That is why you don't put your credit card info on an itunes account and use the cards instead.

archvile93:

Andy Chalk:
"I thought the app preyed on children," Kay said.

And yet she still allowed her child to play the game completely unsupervised without bothering to utilize the system's fail safes. Yeah, she gets no sympathy from me.

It's a goddamn Smurfs game, for crying out loud, what reason would she possibly need to supervise her child for a Smurfs game? While certain precautions should be made to make sure crap like this doesn't happen, c'mon, who expects their 8-year-old daughter to ring up a $1400 bill of Smurfberries? I'd trust my daughter enough to play the game responsibly.

As much as we'd like parents to do their job, they can't be everywhere their child is 24/7.

Wait, so she didn't enter a credit card and the bill was sent to her?

That's bullshit, this is one where I'm willing to blame the game and not the parent.

It is a game made for fucking four year olds where you can rack up thousands of dollars of charges without the parent entering a credit card or giving permission at any stage?

Fuck that, I hope the game gets the book thrown at them in court.

"She was given a one-time refund when she brought it to Apple's attention"

This part impressed me. I bought GTA Chinatown Wars on my iPod Touch, but first had the Lite version, then upgraded it, when it still showed the "Lite" banner on the pic, I thought I thought i had to go downnload the full version, which i did. But i accidentally paid twice. After an email explaining what happened, Apple actually refunded me $12. But this is... a LOT more.

Apple's customer service here should really be commended.

wow ....really? virtual goods are getting out of hand. $99 for a fucking smurf in game item.... that and kids + tech = increased stupidity, isnt xbox live proof enough of how bad an idea this is?

archvile93:

Andy Chalk:
"I thought the app preyed on children," Kay said.

And yet she still allowed her child to play the game completely unsupervised without bothering to utilize the system's fail safes. Yeah, she gets no sympathy from me. It's just one more parent teaching kids they shouldn't be held accountable for their actions or inactions through the process known as example.

When you buy a game made for 4 year olds and don't enter your credit card into it, it's pretty safe to assume it won't let your four year old rack up over a thousand dollars in charges.

This isn't like the Xbox lady who ENTERED HER CREDIT CARD and then didn't check her statements for 18 months, this is someone who didn't give the game a credit card, and the game is made for people around the age of Kindergarten.

At some point it's no longer the parents fault, there was NOTHING that would lead her to believe anything like this could have happened, she can't be watching the kid 24/7

One can debate back and forth who (if anyone) should be blamed for this kind of thing happening, but fact remains, games with micro transactions aimed at young kids is a really dirty trick, regardless of whether or not things go as far as they did in this case.

A smurfberry addiction is a truly sad thing.

kids like spending their parents money. though if a game is geared to kids aged 4 and up...there should be some accountability on the part of the company. yes we should all supervise our children at all times and if we can't we're bad parents...seriously? you take your eyes off a child for two seconds and they disappear! I've worked in child care and I can honestly say it's impossible to keep an eye on them at all times! now keeping your card info on your ipad or iphone or whatever the hell it is can be dangerous but when a game is targeted at children, these things shouldn't even be on the table. free to play is one of the most misleading concepts in the world, especially to a child.

This is bullshit, I think it should be a law that you should have to enter the last four digits of your credit card for verification into a game before it lets you buy things if that game is marketed to children

Considering the fact that the bill came from email, the mother NEVER gave the game itself her card, and it is made for 5 year olds means this was not the mothers fault but the game's

The fact that it charges $99 FUCKING DOLLARS for "smurfberries" lead me to believe that the game was created solely to make things like this happen, I agree with her when she says it preys on children.

Unlike the Xbox Live kid, this time I can sympathize with the mother of this article. You know that kids can buy digital games on consoles, but a game that panders to little kids with the Smurfs?

Smurfs is supposed to be a cartoon geared towards children. It has always been this way. If you buy a game like "Donald Duck's PlayGround" for your little kid, you don't expect that they're going to rack up actual cash charges on getting the super slide. If you download kid's game like Internet Hopscotch, you aren't expecting to have to pay a fortune for any numbers after 9.

And how is the kid going to know any better?

Isn't there a law in the world that prohibits kids from getting into these situations? Some anti-commercial kid law?

What happens next, NeoPets starts charging kids in realworld currency for flavored slushies and colored paintbrushes?

dibblywibbles:
kids like spending their parents money. though if a game is geared to kids aged 4 and up...there should be some accountability on the part of the company. yes we should all supervise our children at all times and if we can't we're bad parents...seriously? you take your eyes off a child for two seconds and they disappear! I've worked in child care and I can honestly say it's impossible to keep an eye on them at all times! now keeping your card info on your ipad or iphone or whatever the hell it is can be dangerous but when a game is targeted at children, these things shouldn't even be on the table. free to play is one of the most misleading concepts in the world, especially to a child.

If she had given the game her credit card I wouldn't have sympathy, but this game charged her based on her Itunes account, so for all she knew you couldn't even buy things in the game.

99$ for some digital item in a game?
And I thought those avatar accessories on xbox live for 2 bucks were bullshit already.
What the hell.

Monshroud:
Is that a mis-print? $99 for virtual Smurfberries? Do the berries do kids homework for them? I mean isn't this virtual item purchasing going a bit too far here.

Of course they cost that much. Smurfberries are very valuable. Didn't you see the south park episode? :P

Can't help but laugh at this, really. You should think they would have implemented a system that kept eight-year olds from using all their parents' money.

Those are outrageous prices. I don't know what a wagon of smurfberries does but really, that's like 6 months of subscription to a AAA MMO.

This is why I dislike F2P, because of this constant soft or hard sell of premium in-game items and features. Blatantly targetting young kids like this is pretty shameless, but I can't help but think we're going to see a lot more of this, aimed at kids and casual gamers who will pay more for less.

Pop-up warning when first downloading the game that says something like:
"Although this game is free to download. Parts of the game may require actual purchases to be unlocked."

I don't think that would be to bad and solve some problems.

It wouldn't be the most farfetched thing I've heard of. I seem to recall there being an app that costs $500 and it's just a diamond with the text "I can actually afford this app" on it.

danpascooch:

archvile93:

Andy Chalk:
"I thought the app preyed on children," Kay said.

And yet she still allowed her child to play the game completely unsupervised without bothering to utilize the system's fail safes. Yeah, she gets no sympathy from me. It's just one more parent teaching kids they shouldn't be held accountable for their actions or inactions through the process known as example.

When you buy a game made for 4 year olds and don't enter your credit card into it, it's pretty safe to assume it won't let your four year old rack up over a thousand dollars in charges.

This isn't like the Xbox lady who ENTERED HER CREDIT CARD and then didn't check her statements for 18 months, this is someone who didn't give the game a credit card, and the game is made for people around the age of Kindergarten.

At some point it's no longer the parents fault, there was NOTHING that would lead her to believe anything like this could have happened, she can't be watching the kid 24/7

True, but would it have really been so hard not to tell her children what her password was? I don't go around telling people what the password to my email or bank account is.

This is just smurfed up. I agree completely, what the smurf these smurphing parents thinking giving that kind of monetary access to their children?

GothmogII:
This is just smurfed up. I agree compleltely, what the smurf these smurphing parents thinking giving that kind of monetary access to their children?

Free App = All downloadable things in the App must be free.

This is the prime example of why I hate most "casual games" today.
A game that is called "Free to play" should be 100% free. Not this bullshit where you can use real money to get an advantage over other players.

Ugh. This must be one of THOSE kinda weeks. Where every new story about electronics has to be the same.

People, just dont let your kids play games. Or get them a real console and sit em down. Or make them go outside.

you know you can limit the amount of cash you can use on your ipad? i would never give my kid an ipad with no spending limit. i would probably not give my kid an ipad in the first place.

No wonder that wizard hunts the smurf down all the time; if the friggin' berries cost that much, imagion how much a smurf will get you on the black market. (from what I remember he was trying to turn them into gold to get rich. Why that was only possible on smurfs is a mystery to me)

danpascooch:
This is bullshit, I think it should be a law that you should have to enter the last four digits of your credit card for verification into a game before it lets you buy things if that game is marketed to children

Considering the fact that the bill came from email, the mother NEVER gave the game itself her card, and it is made for 5 year olds means this was not the mothers fault but the game's

The fact that it charges $99 FUCKING DOLLARS for "smurfberries" lead me to believe that the game was created solely to make things like this happen, I agree with her when she says it preys on children.

I have to agree here. With such outrageous prices it's obvious that this game does, indeed, pray on children.

qeinar:
you know you can limit the amount of cash you can use on your ipad? i would never give my kid an ipad with no spending limit. i would probably not give my kid an ipad in the first place.

Exactly. It's much too expensive to just give to a small child. A DS, or something like that is acceptable, given the general absence of internet on it, as well as the much smaller price tag.
Honestly, who just gives a child a $500 piece of electronics? It's completely irresponsible.

o.O

Dude.. 99 bucks for smurfberries... granted, apprently ALOT of smurfberries... but still..

And what the hell is a 99 dollar real world purches option being included in a game targeting 4 year olds anyways? I mean, WHAT?

...

Spending money on line, IMO, should never be so easy an 8 year old can do it on accdent. Or even on purporse. That is just irrisponsible on the game makers part. My god, even at best buy, with me standing there, they want to see my ID and need the 3 digits on the back of my card...

Using technology as a babysitter/pacifier comes at a price.

Isn't there a whole thing about a society having access to technology they don't fully understand. If you're going to play dumb when it comes to parental controls or just basic supervision, $1400 seems a fair price tag to me.

Andy Chalk:
$99 for a wagon of smurfberries

please tell me this is a typo its just impossible for a gmae like this to have items that almost cost 100$!
OT
shouldnt the parents monitor their kids? or shouldnt kids ask PERMISSION to use their parents credit card? this is the second story this month! HOW STUPID ARE AMERICAN PARENTS?!
PS
I dont mean that parents should watch their kids 24/7 just in situations where stuff like this can happen

archvile93:

danpascooch:

archvile93:

And yet she still allowed her child to play the game completely unsupervised without bothering to utilize the system's fail safes. Yeah, she gets no sympathy from me. It's just one more parent teaching kids they shouldn't be held accountable for their actions or inactions through the process known as example.

When you buy a game made for 4 year olds and don't enter your credit card into it, it's pretty safe to assume it won't let your four year old rack up over a thousand dollars in charges.

This isn't like the Xbox lady who ENTERED HER CREDIT CARD and then didn't check her statements for 18 months, this is someone who didn't give the game a credit card, and the game is made for people around the age of Kindergarten.

At some point it's no longer the parents fault, there was NOTHING that would lead her to believe anything like this could have happened, she can't be watching the kid 24/7

True, but would it have really been so hard not to tell her children what her password was? I don't go around telling people what the password to my email or bank account is.

Aren't Iphones and Ipads bound to an account? Meaning they are basically always logged in?

I don't think she needed a password at time of purchase.

danpascooch:

archvile93:

Andy Chalk:
"I thought the app preyed on children," Kay said.

And yet she still allowed her child to play the game completely unsupervised without bothering to utilize the system's fail safes. Yeah, she gets no sympathy from me. It's just one more parent teaching kids they shouldn't be held accountable for their actions or inactions through the process known as example.

When you buy a game made for 4 year olds and don't enter your credit card into it, it's pretty safe to assume it won't let your four year old rack up over a thousand dollars in charges.

This isn't like the Xbox lady who ENTERED HER CREDIT CARD and then didn't check her statements for 18 months, this is someone who didn't give the game a credit card, and the game is made for people around the age of Kindergarten.

At some point it's no longer the parents fault, there was NOTHING that would lead her to believe anything like this could have happened, she can't be watching the kid 24/7

I agree. If there was no CC needed then this should not have happened. You shouldn't need to supervise you kid playing the Smurfs. Not to mention $99 bucks for smurfberries? $99 for any dlc in a game should require a valid CC no question. That is outrageous.

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No matter what the cost, our pasttimes surpass all priorities regarding finances.[/sarcasm]

Thankfully within a few years business models will develop to be far less dangerous to underage internet access.

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