5-year-old boy gets dad into debt playing 'free' Facebook game

By admin
26 June 2015

A father-of-three in the UK was handed a $400 (nearly R8000) credit card bill after his five-year-old son incurred charges playing a 'free' puzzle app on Facebook.

Alexander (5), who suffers from autism, racked up the huge bill in only a few days by playing the game Juice Jam through his father’s Facebook account.

Alistair Leith, Alexanders father, uses the social networking site to place paid-for advertisements for his business and his credit card details are stored as part of his log-in details. His son had been logging into his father's account on the family computer and playing the Juice Jam before school.

But when the five-year-old  acquired more ‘coins’ as part of the addictive puzzle game’s in-app purchases, the site did not prompt the boy to enter the card details again and he was able to make the payments without typing in a password or credit card details. Alexander ended up buying several ‘coins’ packages costing $63 (just over R1200) each.

"When I saw the bill I was alarmed," says father Alistair, "What I'm annoyed about is that Facebook makes it so easy that children can make a payment in the first place… so many devices do not log off automatically. It makes it so easy for children to go on these things and run up substantial bills and in my view that cannot be ethical."

Alistair also thinks that his son’s autism is part of the reason that he mindlessly played the game and ran up an account. “Because of his autism he gets a bit fixated with games. Very few things can hold his concentration.”

He says that getting Alexander to quit the game has been a challenge. “At first we just told him Facebook was broken but he got upset and kept asking to play the game… in the end I showed him the invoices and explained to him that the game cost money and daddy couldn't afford. He understood but he was very sad.”

Following a complaint to Facebook, the social network has since offered Alistair a one-time only refund.


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