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UK officer reports son for fraud to reclaim App Store money

updated 10:11 am EDT, Mon March 25, 2013

Apple refusing to refund 3,700 bill, paper

A UK policeman, Doug Crossnan, has reported his 13-year-old son Cameron for fraud after he spent 3,700 on in-game purchases on his iPad, the Daily Mail reports. Doug tells the paper that his son was unaware he was being charged for the purchases, but that Apple has so far refused to make a refund. The fraud charge, he explains, is now the only way to recoup the money, since he needs a crime reference number for any hope of a claim.

"In theory the local police station would contact me and ask for Cameron to come in to be interviewed," adds Mr. Crossnan. "I could make it difficult of course and refuse to bring him in and they would have to come and arrest him. Really I just want to embarrass Apple as much as possible. Morally, I just don't understand where Apple gets off charging for a child's game."

Cameron has had the iPad since December, when he and other students at his school received them as learning aids. Doug registered his credit card info with Apple when he bought an album on the device; this, though, appears to have opened the door to Cameron making over 300 purchases in games such as Plants vs. Zombies and N.O.V.A. 3. The games are all third-party titles hosted on Apple's App Store.

"None of us had any knowledge of what was happening as there was no indication in the game that he was being charged for any of the clicks made within it," says Doug. "He [Cameron] innocently thought that, because it was advertised as a free game, the clicks would not cost anything." Apple, though, has insisted that it was Doug's responsibility to watch over the iPad, and that the tablet has password locks to block unwanted purchases.

In the past few years a variety of parents have brought complaints against Apple over in-app purchases, including formal lawsuits. An increasing number of games have adopted a "freemium" model -- meaning that they're initially free, but that people must pay for some in-game items, expansions, and currency using real money. Some of the games don't make it clear that real money is involved, and Apple's own attempts to make in-app purchases quick and seamless have made it easy for children make downloads accidentally. The company recently added an "Offers In-App Purchases" warning to App Store pages, but only on the desktop version of the storefront.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. Gepard

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-16-00

    Really??

    What a moron! 300 purchases? He is saying that his son (13-years old!!!) clicked on the button "Confirm Your Purchase. Do you want to buy extra (whatever) for $3.99 ($0.99, $4.99, etc.)?" And there is a BUY button that you have to tap on.

    He (dad) also gave his son a password where the credit card info is stored. It is like giving him an actual credit card with a PIN code and he is surprised receiving a huge bill?

    Let me ask you, dad, do you read your emails? Apple sends a statement by email very couple of days. You didn't see £££££ billed to your credit card? And now you are suing you son? "Really I just want to embarrass Apple as much as possible" - REALLY? Looks like you are embarrassing yourself, you son and your family......

  1. makemineamac

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-07-08

    Whatever happened to accountability?

    This guy is truly showing his son how to be an adult huh?

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Nice

    So he's a moron, has no accountability, blah blah blah.

    Wait until it happens to you.

  1. growlf

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-05-07

    Re: Nice

    Yes, he is. No, he does. No, it won't. Ever.

  1. growlf

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-05-07

    Re: Nice

    No, he doesn't. Sigh.

  1. climacs

    Junior Member

    Joined: 09-06-01

    re: nice

    uh, responsible people look at their credit card statements.

  1. SunSeeker

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 04-12-01

    Wasting Police Time

    Isn't it a crime to use the legal system this way when his son is actually only guilty of stupidity (obviously runs in the family)

  1. MatthewHowell

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-23-13

    This is sad...

    This is sad for several reasons:

    1. The various app descriptions on the iOS App Store (bottom of the page) will clearly state if the app uses the IAP model.
    2. Every time the user clicks on a IAP link, they will always receive a "Do you want to purchase this?" message box that requires a Yes/No response.
    3. Apple will always send the AppleID account holder an email receipt detailing the purchases made on the account.

    I find it very hard to believe that neither he nor his son had any clue about this.

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    Easy fix is for the parent to put a prepaid credit card on the account.

  1. Bobfozz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 07-28-08

    look at the picture

    your comment

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    What picture?

    Originally Posted by BobfozzView Post

    your comment



    LOL

    Apparently including the front page picture in the actual article is too difficult for MacNN to figure out.

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Exactly

    Originally Posted by NewsPosterView Post

    An increasing number of games have adopted a "freemium" model -- meaning that they're initially free, but that people must pay for some in-game items, expansions, and currency using real money. Some of the games don't make it clear that real money is involved...



    N.O.V.A. 3... this is Gameloft's new business model now; sucking revenue from parents via their children (e.g. My Little Pony). Also, if Apple would just make "require password" default to the value of "immediately" (which you are FORCED to enable "restrictions"), then this wouldn't fawking happen.

    And according to the article, the kid made 300 purchases less than 15 minutes of each other. Which means all of them would appear on a single invoice from Apple (which he may have missed), and wouldnt' show up on his credit card statement until the end of the billing cycle.

  1. coffeetime

    Junior Member

    Joined: 11-15-06

    as a parent....

    I buy only Apple gift card for the account refill. Yes, my kid do click on "buy" button without my consent sometimes.

  1. JohnD

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-24-01

    Criminal

    In app purchasing itself is a fraud.

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Originally Posted by JohnDView Post

    In app purchasing itself is a fraud.



    Really - in what way does it provide something other than what it promises you?

    There's nothing wrong with in-app purchasing in and of itself. Some vendors use it in non-sleazy ways. PCalc uses it for extra features, TinyTower uses it if you are too lazy to wait for your stuff to sell. There's nothing wrong with that.

    I agree, some companies use it in sleazy ways sometimes, but ultimately, some companies use any commercial venue in sleazy ways. In-app purchase is no different.

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post


    And according to the article, the kid made 300 purchases less than 15 minutes of each other. Which means all of them would appear on a single invoice from Apple (which he may have missed), and wouldnt' show up on his credit card statement until the end of the billing cycle.



    Do you think that pressing buy and confirming so many purchases (that tell you that you are about to be charged real money every time) in such a short amount of time the kid didn't realize what was happening?

  1. Makosuke

    Junior Member

    Joined: 08-06-01

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    And according to the article, the kid made 300 purchases less than 15 minutes of each other. Which means all of them would appear on a single invoice from Apple (which he may have missed), and wouldnt' show up on his credit card statement until the end of the billing cycle.

    Neither the MacNN nor the Daily Mail article says that, and it can't be true. The actual article says:

    Cameron then racked up more than 300 purchases on games such as Plants vs Zombies, Hungry Shark, Gun Builder and Nova 3.

    Since you have to click a confirmation dialogue every time you make an IAP, I don't even think it would be possible to make 300 purchases within 15 minutes in the same game, much less three separate ones, in 15 minutes--that would require tapping a purchase and confirming it every 3 seconds for 15 minutes straight, plus however long it took to switch games.

    But the article says nothing about him having given his son the password; in fact, in the Daily Mail article it's rather implied he did. The guy's defense isn't that his son shouldn't have been able to rack up vast charges in the 15 minute window, it's that he wasn't aware that it was costing real money to click those things in "free" games.

    Of course, it did mean that the kid was ignoring large text warnings that clearly state what you're doing is going to cost you real money, and then asks for an account password (if you haven't entered it recently). Kids never read pop-ups, of course, so there's some real argument to be made that it's predatory, but It also means that he was given the ability to make such purchases by being given an access to an account with a card associated with it.

    And while it's very true that Apple only sends you an email receipt once a day, from the Mail article:

    Mr Crossan only found out about Cameron's spending when he cancelled the direct debit for the credit card, believing it was clear, and MBNA Virgin contacted him to reveal more than £3,000 was still outstanding.

    ...which does not sound like it happened within 24 hours of the kid racking up these huge bills (it actually doesn't say anywhere that they were all purchased within 1 day, and it's generally implied they weren't).

    So the question is whether the guy wasn't checking his email, it was getting spam filtered, or he was just ignoring it.

    I strongly dislike like the fremium model, personally, and I can imagine legitimate ways that all these things could have happened, but there was a lot of sloppy behavior on the part of the parent here, and there's no sense giving him more of the benefit of the doubt than he deserves.

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Originally Posted by hayeskView Post

    Do you think that pressing buy and confirming so many purchases (that tell you that you are about to be charged real money every time) in such a short amount of time the kid didn't realize what was happening?



    The fact that he did 300 times answers your question.

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    Also, if Apple would just make "require password" default to the value of "immediately" (which you are FORCED to enable "restrictions"), then this wouldn't fawking happen.



    Grendelmon, apparently you haven't made an in-app purchase in quite some time. *ALL* in-app purchases require a password, even if you just entered the password five seconds earlier. There was a time when this wasn't true -- two years ago -- but Apple closed that loophole with iOS 4.3 IIRC.

    Apple is absolutely right to stand their ground on this one. Should this get to court, it will be laughed at. Heartily. All Apple has to do is show the judge exactly how to make an in-app purchase, and the judge will immediately see the same thing everyone here knows: that kid knew exactly what he was doing, even if he is mentally handicapped in some manner.

    Also, love the "where does Apple get off" quote. First off, it's the developer not Apple and second are there any grownups at your house, sir? There don't appear to be.

  1. Flying Meat

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Child sacrifice?

    "...Really I just want to embarrass Apple as much as possible. Morally, I just don't understand where Apple gets off charging for a child's game."

    Morally? So a fraud charge against your son seemed like the right way to handle it?
    Technically, the software developer charges for the game. Visiting Toys 'R Us must be like going walking through Hades for this guy, eh?

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    The fact that he did 300 times answers your question.



    In life there are consequences for actions...while the child was acting out (or just infatuated with in-game add-ons) why should Apple pay? Unless they (Apple) was negligent, the parent should pay this...and in turn make the child work it off.

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Originally Posted by MakosukeView Post

    Since you have to click a confirmation dialogue every time you make an IAP, I don't even think it would be possible to make 300 purchases within 15 minutes in the same game, much less three separate ones, in 15 minutes--that would require tapping a purchase and confirming it every 3 seconds for 15 minutes straight, plus however long it took to switch games.



    No, that's not how it works. It's a 15 minute timeout for the password. You're always required to "confirm" the purchase, but if you already made one within 15 minutes of supplying your password, it won't ask you to retype the password again. So he could very much make 300 purchases, every 14 minutes. Ignoring the confirmations, obviously, but he wouldn't have to retype his father's password.

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