Eight-year old British girl Lily Neale loves her dad’s iPad. She plays games on it all day: My Horse, Campus Life and Smurfs’ Village are among her favourites. She loves these games so much she happily racked up a real-world bill of more than £4,000 in in-game purchases, tapping away at prompts to buy more jewels, coins and upgrades. Her father is somewhat less of a fan.
Email alerts from Apple to Lily’s father Lee about the purchases went unnoticed – his iTunes account was registered to his work email address, which he was unable to access.
Lily spent hours on the games, never realising she was also spending real money. Lee’s bank, however, knew it was very real – and froze Lee’s account after his daughter reportedly spent £2,000 in 74 transactions across just six days.
Lee was faced with the prospect of selling his car to raise money to pay off his daughter’s debts, after Apple‘s initial reaction that “all purchases made on the iTunes store are final”.
Apple has since contacted Lee with better news, apologising for closing his case so early and confirming that all of the money will be refunded.
But how was this eight-year old able to run up such a huge bill? Lee admits it was – at least partially – his fault.
Even when I sat her down and explained that what she was doing had cost dad money, I still don’t think she really understood.
Lily apparently watched her Dad using the App Store and remembered his password, which she then entered at the game’s prompts.
A similar story happened in the UK in March, where another eight-year old spent £980 on virtual donuts in-game. At the time, Apple reminded customers that these situations are addressed on a case-by-case basis, and refunds are not assured.
To avoid falling into the same trap, Apple suggests that families familiarise themselves with the Parents’ Guide to iTunes (requires iTunes software), which touches on topics such as not sharing your passwords with the kids, using iTunes gift cards or certificates instead of credit cards, and enabling Parental Controls or Restrictions.