Belgian teen drops 37,000 Euros on free-to-play game
The thing about free-to-play games is that they’re only free when you don’t spend money on them.
That concept was lost on a 15-year-old teenager in Belgium, however, who coughed up a jaw-dropping 37,000 Euros – that’s over $46,000 – on in-app purchases for the popular strategy game, Game of War: Fire Age.
Of course, it wasn’t his money to spend.
The teen’s grandfather was the recipient of the charges, reports Belgian news site Nieuwsblad. Initially, his mother passed on the credit card info while enlisting the boy’s aid in setting up her tablet to download eBooks. Somewhere along the way, the kid linked the credit card to his own iTunes account. He then went about buying in-game gold – and a lot of it.
How much, exactly? You can buy packs of 20,000 gold for $100, so we’re talking about roughly 9,200,000 gold pieces. The kid’s mother says her son claims to have not known he was spending real-world money, though that sounds a little fishy. After all, he was smart enough to link up a credit card to iTunes.
Regardless of the intent, these sort of nightmarish in-app purchasing sprees are hardly uncommon. Smurfberries, keys, mountains of food – the past few years have seen kids do terrible things to their parents’ credit cards simply to get a leg up in a free game.
The tide may be turning, however, now that the FTC is involved. Back in January, Apple settled a case to refund over $30 million in in-app purchases to disgruntled consumers (the company has since added an in-app purchase label to relevant apps.) More recently, Google settled to pay out $19 million in a similar case affecting the Android app store.
Europe in particular has aggressively pursued changes to the way Apple and Google handle in-app purchases. In response to a request from Europe’s Consumer Protection Cooperation Network, Google no longer calls games with in-app purchases “free,” though Apple has yet to comply.
The good news? Turning off in-app purchases for iOS devices is pretty easy. Here's how:
1. Go to 'Settings' and tap 'General'
2. Scroll down a bit and tap 'Restrictions'
3. Tap 'Enable Restrictions'. Now enter and re-enter a passcode, preferably something your kids won't easily crack (for instance, don't use their birthday.)
4. Scroll down to 'In-App Purchases' and simply turn it off.