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Kids' iPad gaming binge costs parents thousands

Kids' iPad gaming binge costs parents thousands

Published: 07 Apr 2011 13:22 GMT+02:00
Updated: 07 Apr 2011 13:22 GMT+02:00

Two Swedish children who got carried away playing the Smurfs' Village game on their iPads during a recent road trip ended up billing their parents tens of thousands of kronor.

Before realising what had happened, the brothers had racked up more than 50,000 kronor ($7,800) in charges.

"I downloaded the Smurf game for each of them from the Appstore. It cost seven kronor. Maybe I didn't read the terms and conditions carefully enough, but I didn't think it would cost more than that," parent Maria Attvik told the TT news agency.

Attvik downloaded the Smurf Village game for her two sons before a family road trip from Stockholm to Gothenburg.

The game involves feeding and watering strawberries to make them grow. But what Attvik didn't know was that once they were playing the game, the kids could also make purchases without being asked for a password, Sveriges Radio (SR) reported.

Among items the kids were able to purchase as a part of the Smurfs' Village game were wheelbarrows containing virtual strawberries costing 749 kronor apiece.

As the kids busied themselves with their playing during the car ride, the Attvik's didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

But after a time a flood of payment messages started to flow in from Apple's iTunes Store.

By the time the parents took a closer look, one son had managed to accumulate charges of 11,000 kronor, while the other's charges came to a whopping 40,000 kronor.

"It feels like they are just out to trick you," Attvik said of the game.

She has now contacted Apple in an effort to get her money back, but so far her requests have gone unanswered.

Smurfs' Village, which is sold by US-based Capcom, has also been criticised in the United States.

The game is ranked seventh among iStore apps which have generated the most income.

According to its description in Smurfs' Village is "free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content".

It's also possible to lock out the purchasing function by adjusting the settings.

According to the description, users are also supposed to be required to enter a password every fifteen minutes to approve purchases.

TT/The Local/dl (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:19 April 7, 2011 by Rick Methven
"wheelbarrows containing virtual strawberries costing 749 kronor apiece"

For that price they could have got 12kg of real strawberries.

How on earth can the justify 749 for a game widget?
15:27 April 7, 2011 by HYBRED
To funny. Reminds me of the old '900' numbers. What a scam. Parents give the kids a toy to keep them out of their hair and dont pat attention to whats going on. And someone is ready to take advantage of it.
15:53 April 7, 2011 by Great Scott
This sort of thing disgusts me, once again fat pigs feeding from the poor.

And as for the comment "but so far her requests have gone unanswered", if they need something from you, they would tear your house apart to get it.

Apple, I don't have enough words for low life like you.
16:23 April 7, 2011 by Rick Methven
Apple are being investigated in the US

and have supposed to have made it so kids can not buy without a password

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2011/03/apple_changes_purchases_policy.html
17:22 April 7, 2011 by eZee.se
@rick,

True, but expect that to go as slow as possible and even slower by the time the rest of the world gets it.

Cr-Appl have a history of screwing over the buyers of their products, don't expect it to change anytime soon.

I'm surprised the CrAppl apologists have not already come here making excuses.
17:30 April 7, 2011 by Rick Methven
@eZee.se

Byke is on his travels. Lucky for him he will have his iPad2 with him rather than leaving it at home for his kids to play with. If he had, he might have fallen out of love with Crapple
17:45 April 7, 2011 by BrittInSweden
It doesn't ask for your password on AppStore for 15 minutes after each login.

So if you bought Smurfs game, the kids have 15 minutes of free purchasing time without needing a password.

This game and the whole App Store purchasing has been in the news on Eurogamer.net and games sites after kids in other countries did the same thing.
18:25 April 7, 2011 by Staffs
Herbert Spencer would be laughing his t*ts off.
18:26 April 7, 2011 by Swedesmith
I always thought those little Smurfs looked dodgey.
18:39 April 7, 2011 by HYBRED
If you choke a smurf, what color does it turn?
18:40 April 7, 2011 by mkvgtired
Just dispute the credit card charges. They were made by people who did not own the cards and were not old enough to understand what they were doing.
19:05 April 7, 2011 by Swedesmith
@Hybred and what color does a Smurf turn when it gets cold?
20:05 April 7, 2011 by HYBRED
@Swedesmith

If you choke them, or they get cold they must turn white.
20:26 April 7, 2011 by eZee.se
This can easily be avoided, but with CrAppl making a nice 30% commission on each kid buying a 115USD virtual strawberry... "we'll get back to you" seems to be the standard answer.

Disgraceful.
20:39 April 7, 2011 by Arturio
What happened at those childrens brings me back to memory when the dangerous dialers infested my compuer requesting access to expensive fake services.
21:14 April 7, 2011 by dizzymoe33
This is really sad for the parents. I hope they can get some answer from Apple but I doubt they will. Another reason why I don't care for the Apple company.
22:31 April 7, 2011 by markusd
IMO, this game has one purpose only and that is to use your kid to steal your money. Why? Because not one person out of the six billion on this planet would freely and knowingly accept the deal proposed in this game. And it doesn't matter how much money someone has. If someone like Bill Gates had a kid that wanted to pay $115 for a bunch of fake smurfberries, he would probably sit him down and teach him a nice lesson about how stupid that would be.

The only way Capcom will get revenue from this game, beyond the initial $1/7kr cost, is to get kids buy things without understanding what they're really doing and for parents to make the assumption that the costs are reasonable. Capcom is just sleazy. Not a big fan of Apple either.
22:33 April 7, 2011 by Essjay
Child exploitation simple and pure .these pathetic scumbags worship money so much and would sell their mother,s organ,s to make a profit !
23:27 April 7, 2011 by Swedesmith
Never choked a Smurf before...don't ask about chickens.
09:35 April 8, 2011 by CM75
I've played this game for a while, it's quite relaxing and fun. I haven't spent any real money on it and my children are too young to play it.

When you read the game's description, there's even a warning message saying that you can spend real money on Smurfberries (not "strawberries", by the way) and that each iDevice keeps you logged into your AppStore account for 15 min.

When my children start to play those games one day, I'll make sure I either wait 15 min after a purchase or - better even - I'll disable In-App-Purchases in the settings. I think everyone should take a few minutes to learn the basic functions of a new phone, especially the ones that can be expensive (In-App-Purchases, roaming, 3G data transfer, to name a few).

Anyway, in this case there might be a chance to get the money back as it should be obvious what has happened.
03:33 April 10, 2011 by Thebinary1
What can I say .... welcome to Apple :D

Makes Microsoft look like an Angel doesn't it.
09:36 April 10, 2011 by mikewhite
There I was thinking Apple vetted games for disreputable content ...
10:54 April 10, 2011 by notpresto
Seems cheap to keep em quite!
11:43 April 10, 2011 by mikewhite
We just need some hackers to issue a "free smurfberries" download.
13:17 April 13, 2011 by Bones
Doesn't take much to bring out the apple-haters! Some pretty idiotic comments above...

As CM75 said, there are plenty of settings one can change to prevent this kind of thing. Simply put, it was the parent's fault for giving a toy to the kids and not paying attention to what goes on.

It was an expensive lesson that they should learn from. Still, better than a bunch of other things that could go wrong by not paying attention to what your kids are up to!
19:40 April 13, 2011 by Jools33
There have been several similar cases in the US and the makers of this game have been referred to the FTC:

http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/02/24/0617228/FTC-To-Examine-Microtransactions-In-Free-To-Play-Games-and-Apps

This could happen just as easily on Android as Apple's platform - its the App writer (Capcom Interactive) who should carry the blame here.
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