October 12, 2014
Belgian Teenager Racks Up Over $46,000 in In-App Purchases
iOS and 'free-to-play' game blamed
A 15-year-old from Antwerp, Belgium has managed to accumulate over 37,000 euro ($46,000) in iTunes charges on a credit card through in-app purchases, according to local publication Nieuwsblad. The teenager was reportedly playing a free-to-play iOS game called Game of War: Fire Age; several months in, his mother asked him to buy some e-books using her credit card. The boy then discovered he could buy virtual gold in-game using real money, greatly accelerating his progress. The title even has a casino minigame.
It's claimed that the charges went so high because it was possible to make single-tap purchases, and there was no indication of how much money was actually being spent in transactions, though critics are dubious of such claims. Many parents have complained about this aspect of iOS and the App Store; although Apple has taken some steps to improve the situation, incidents continue to occur. People are also becoming increasingly upset with "free-to-play" games in general, the more insidious of which are targeted at children, make no reference to real-world costs, and/or require in-app purchases -- rather than skill -- to advance.
In response, the Belgian Gaming Commission has called for stricter rules. In other countries, companies like Apple and Google have faced legal action over accusations of not doing enough to safeguard in-app purchases.