back to article Facebook didn't care if your kids ran up gigantic credit card bills – lawsuit

Facebook has been accused of not caring if game companies diddled children and their parents out of millions of dollars with in-game purchases, following the unsealing of US court documents. Campaigning US journalism outfit Reveal News secured a number of exhibits from an ongoing class-action lawsuit against Facebook in which …

  1. TomPhan

    Returning digital goods?

    So if the credit card transaction is refunded do the digital goods [gems, gold, hats, or whatever] disappear from the game? How about if they've been used?

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Returning digital goods?

      in world of tanks your account is locked until a payment is received to the original amount charged back.

      1. Jamtea

        Re: Returning digital goods?

        Sounds reasonable. Any kid who spends that much to then have it charged back should lose the account (and their allowance). The company facilitating it should also lose the money. It's the perfect win-win/lose-lose scenario where both parties are at fault and both should be punished.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Any kid who spends that much

          Have you seen how much it is possible to spend in these games though?

          Long gone are the small micro-transactions, now it's £20, £50 even £100 for some in game credits.

          All this for a silly mobile app?

        2. Drew Scriver

          Re: Returning digital goods?

          I'd have to disagree, presuming that the company does not know that this is a minor using a credit card without permission.

          The responsibility, IMHO, lies with the parent(s).

          1) How is it that the children are able to transact business without them noticing?

          2) How is it that the children have access to the parents' credit cards?

          At some point parents/consumers need to take responsibility.

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: Returning digital goods?

            At some point parents/consumers need to take responsibility.

            That is a reasonable point, but if Zuckerbook has built a system intentionally designed to facilitate this, then they should not make a cent out those transactions, and hopefully suffer punitive damages. Even if they didn't do it intentionally, they should still be held accountable for failure to build in more checks and balances. I get an Amazon receipt to my main email account even for zero-value purchases from the Amazon app store, it would have been easy for Zuck's crew to have done something similar - but they didn't want to. However, my wife's email account is spammed by hundred of messages a week of the inane dribblings of fellow posters in FB groups she's joined. You (and I) would say that's her problem for (a) joining FB, and (b) not managing the FB or email client settings, but the point being that FB chose to do email notifications for brain-spew comments, but not to make people aware of money spent via FB's crapps.

            Nail the company to a wall, I say. But only after the little scrote himself has first been nailed to a wall, ideally at a level where his toes just don't touch the floor.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there a scammier corporation

    As billion dollar corporations go, Facebook must win the prize for the sleaziest operation.

    Can anyone think of a worse example?

    1. Alumoi

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      The Senate? The Presidency? Any political party?

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Is there a scammier corporation

        Any company that actively supports and lobbies the above?

        1. gnarlymarley

          Re: Is there a scammier corporation

          Don't steal. The USA government hates competition.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      And now they're apparently merging WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-47001460 Bloody annoying as I'd rather not deal with FB at all but thanks to my family I can't avoid WhatsApp.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Is there a scammier corporation

        "but thanks to my family I can't avoid WhatsApp."

        Yes you can. You just dump it and tell them they have to find another way to communicate with you. I have a family. I don't have WhatsApp. I have POTS, mobile and email; even snail mail . They're more than sufficient.

        1. DaLo

          Re: Is there a scammier corporation

          I disagree, Whatsapp is a great solution for multi OS mobile communication for groups of people. It's one of the few that has bridged the iOS and Android platforms and allows easy photo sharing, quick chats, group chats, video chats, quick decisions and end-to-end encryption. POTS you can't share photos or easily run a group chat and you risk interrupting someone (rather than reply in their own time). mobile MMS is expensive and groups are harder to set up and maintain (e.g. the group is set up locally by one person not for everyone), e-mail is much better but not a great short communications tool and harder to have a back and forth conversation, can't do a video call, not as good for quick responses, easy to lose the group if someone doesn't hit reply-all. Snail mail - great but limited in ways that are known.

          So choose what suits you best but as the OP said using it to collaborate between families is great and I too am annoyed that it is being merged into tohe facebook family. I purposely don't have facebook messenger or facebook app on my phone as it is way too slurpy. Trying to get everyone to switch to another platform (including 70+ year olds) is going to be a pain and there is no obvious contender.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: Is there a scammier corporation

            > Whatsapp is a great solution for multi OS mobile communication for groups of people

            but when it starts to require the install of the FB app, or permission to view FB contacts, it shall be binned in favour of a different one. Am not giving FB unfettered access to my phone

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is there a scammier corporation

            For another solution which matches all the Whatsapp features and benefits you mentioned, have a look at Signal Messenger. It's from the folk to created the Signal Protocol (the end-to-end encryption protocol Whatsapp now uses). It's what I'll be convincing my friends and family to use in place of Whatsapp.

      2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: Is there a scammier corporation

        I'm currently checking out Line and I'll be transferring my family to it.

    3. dbtx Bronze badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      Monsanto, for suing farmers that somehow ended up with copyrighted DNA in their own non-(intentionally)-GMO crops and seed banks.

    4. ma1010 Silver badge

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      Uber

    5. CustardGannet
      Flame

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      Yes there is - Vale (the largest producer of iron ore and nickel in the world) - voted the corporation with the most "contempt for the environment and human rights" in the world in 2012:

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jan/27/public-eye-awards-vale-barclays

      Since then they have been responsible for two mining-dam disasters - Bento Rodrigues in 2015, and Brumadinho, just two days ago (they're still hunting for bodies, but it looks like >400 people have died).

      HTH !

    6. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      The sad, sad truth is that these days there are quite a few very, very scammy corporations.

      What we need is for legal retribution with real teeth that threatens to destroy the corporation for these kind of scams - and can impose very significant fines on proprietors who pretend they're unaware of what's being done in their names.

    7. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      Find one that isn't scammy! Tech companies are mostly immune from laws of the offline world and what laws there are subject to they flout for as long as possible. Then when legislators come along to reign them in they declare "the end of the world" and get useful idiots to shill for them.

    8. Drew Scriver

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      The world would be a much better place without Facebook et al, but let's be honest; people agree to their Terms of Use in hopes of getting stuff "for free".

    9. The First Dave

      Re: Is there a scammier corporation

      Uber?

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    and, the list grows

    I don't know why, but when FB came out, something said to me: "Fly you fool!" I'll just add ripping off families to the list, you know, the one like Nixon used to have...

  4. Rich 2

    Yuk

    Faecesbook really are the lowest of the low. And the Zuk must be a truly reprehensible person.

    Please will someone shut this outfit down!?

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Yuk

      is he a psychopath?

      Not content to raking in millions and millions for getting lucky with a website, the number of terrible things that have come to light over the last year or so are shocking - it's not as if facebook was desperate for money.

      I used to dislike facebook, with all it's data slurping for ad purposes, but unlike many Reg commenters, I didn't think it was inhently evil otherwise. I was never after shutting it down, or hating on the Zuk too much.

      But now?

      It's beyond sleaze.

      I was wrong.

      It is evil.

      Zuk is pompous, arrogant, and unscrupulous.

      I'd be happy if the UK/EU or whoever found something to prosecuted the fuck out of them.

      1. Drew Scriver

        Re: Yuk

        Zuk can't do anything without the billion or so people who have signed up for the service.

        Every single one of them agreed to Facebook's terms. Before someone starts making the point that the average person can't understand the Terms or doesn't bother to read them and thus cannot be held responsible, consider what would happen if one were to suggest that people who can't understand laws, (inter)national affairs, economic concepts, and politics should not be allowed to vote...

        1. John Lilburne Silver badge

          Re: Yuk

          The issue here is that the internet, as developed, is inherently monopolistic. As such T&C don't really matter if all your mates and family are on the thing and you don't want to be the Cassandra on the side warning about the dangers, or trying to convince people that don't give a shit even when they acknowledge the dangers. So everyone one uses FB, Google, Amazon, Twitter etc, and the wife gets a WhatsApp account, because her daughter puts photos of the Grandkids and other relations respond to the answer "Don't have a FB account" with "How do you get in touch with people then?" because they have all forgotten how to work email.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Yuk

      We can only wish it's like the US gubbermint, shutdown by a psychopath...

  5. LenG

    Facebook didn't care if your kids ran up gigantic credit card bills

    And this is a surprise ?

    Actually, it should probably read "Facebook don't care if your kids ran up gigantic credit card bills"

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Facebook didn't care if your kids ran up gigantic credit card bills

      "Actually, it should probably read "Facebook don't care if your kids ran up gigantic credit card bills" "

      I would have thought if they were knowingly (as appears clear from these transcripts) providing services to children via credit card, which children cannot legally own, then they are knowingly processing unauthorized transactions, or at the very least knowingly processing transactions they had reasonable suspicion were unauthorized. I would be surprised if this isn't unlawful.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Facebook didn't care if your kids ran up gigantic credit card bills

        if they were knowingly ... providing services to children via credit card, which children cannot legally own, then they are knowingly processing unauthorized transactions

        Technically they were authorised - because the parent/whoever put the card details in and authorised purchases. Where it probably gets grey is whether Faecesborg made it clear about the implications (ie "enter your card details, we'll take whatever any user spends forever") and whether they provided any meaningful controls (eg setting a spend limit, or otherwise restricting spend).

        It will probably be this latter area that gets examined in detail.

        1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

          At Simon Hobson, re: authorization.

          You wrote:

          Technically they were authorised - because the parent/whoever put the card details in and authorised purchases.

          The problem is when the parent was *not* the person entering the CC details. If the kid swiped the card, entered the details without the parents knowing, & then ran up those charges, the parents will dispute any/all charges to their card & demand their money back.

          It's akin to saying that the parents must be at fault the little kids were caught behind the wheel of their shiny new sports car because the parents must have put the keys in the ignition. No, the kid could have stolen the keys & gone for a joy ride. The parents thought the car was still in the garage (the card in their purse/wallet), not out on the autobahn doing nearly 200KPH (racking up fraud FB charges) & about to get the *parent* arrested for child endangerment (prosecuted for the fraud charges) because their kid was driving their car. See the problem?

          1. sprograms

            Re: At Simon Hobson, re: authorization.

            There was a person on the East Coast that, many years ago, got a call from a San Francisco producer of glass pot pipes and bongs. He answered. "Did you place an order for $900 worth of bongs?" "No." It was obvious what had occurred, the unapproved temporary removal of a credit card from a wallet.

            The point? Glass Bong Makers in San Francisco had more conscience than Facebook, Zuckerberg, and Sandberg. Just stunning.

          2. E_Nigma

            Re: At Simon Hobson, re: authorization.

            A kid "borrowing" a credit card from one of their parents' wallet is the same as a kid "borrowing" some cash from one of their parents' wallet. A business should have enough sense and conscience to have it's attention raised by an excessive amount being spent, but ultimately it is a matter that really needs to be resolved between the child and the parents. I doubt I'm the only kid who always returned the exact change home without anyone having to explain it to me, ever - it was the logical thing to do. And I was much younger than twelve when they started sending me to the grocery store. A twelve year old ought to have more than enough of understanding how money works as well as sufficient moral scruples to not do c*ap like this.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is no valid excuse for putting in game purchases in games targeted at children. There is very little valid excuse for it in any game. It's a scam.

    The companies that develop such games should be prosecuted for credit card fraud because that's what it amounts to.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      +1

      Apple, we're looking in YOUR direction too...

      Where's that rotten apple icon got off to now?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think Apple are quite good at refunding kid purchases?

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      A surprisingly large number of adults have spent mega-money on candy crash (sic)... depressing.

      1. John Lilburne Silver badge

        To my eternal chagrin

        I got suckered into a PAYGO game tribez it was, and spen a large amount on it probably £50 or so, but more importantly hrs of wasted time. Then one purchase errored out, nothing would get WETF I've bought to show up. No contact possible other than going round and round. So I reinstalled the damn thing and suddenly I was back to square one. Lesson learnt.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe there is a use for it. Kids can enjoy buying extras in a game, however it doesn't have to be done with a credit card at all. If a game is targeted at <18s or the child is known to be <18 then only allow "credits" to be spent. These can be bought by a parent and given to a child - iTunes gift card, Google Play card style. The parent can buy the child $10/£10 for their birthday and the child can spend that on gold/gems etc. Parent responsibility and choice, child can spend as required.

      However I would agree that the purchasing of extras can be a bit addictive - but so can candy floss.

  7. eldel

    They spent how much?

    So - not being a user of farcebook - how the hell do you run up a 6 grand bill in a few months?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: They spent how much?

      Perhaps Feacebook has a special premium rate for children.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: They spent how much?

      With games you can run up an arbitrary amount, if they sell ways for you to advance in the game more quickly. They have an incentive to make it as unclear as possible that you are spending real money, because even if 90% of transactions end up getting reversed, the remaining 10% of transactions that range as high as $6000 would add up quickly!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They spent how much?

      You can buy 10 Gems for $1, 100 Gems for $8 etc.

      10,000 Gems are just $99

      So why wouldn't a kid who doesn't understand that it is 'real' money and not part of the game just buy the 10,000 gem package, and then buy it again, and again, and again. A few hours of gameplay and they could easily rack up a few thousand.

    4. Tony Jarvie

      Re: They spent how much?

      Actually, doesn't it say that the transcript was from the 9th of Sept, and in the transcript it says the card was added on the 2nd of Sept? So never mind a few months, this looks like it was perhaps less than a week!

    5. M.V. Lipvig

      Re: They spent how much?

      I play Boom Beach, and could easily spend a thousand a day. 6K a month, not a problem. In that game the money would buy gems which allows you to build stuff, upgrade weapons and attack people instantly. Spend enough and you can rule the game. Me, I've never spent a red cent on the game, so my progress is somewhat... slower. What's bad is your ability to win resources without spending is like getting yearly 1 percent raises in an economy with 50 percent inflation. The game is designed to grind down like an apple phone until you lever open the money for an "upgrade." Me, I look at it like a challenge.

  8. steviebuk Silver badge

    This is similar...

    ...but even more evil than the Martin Lewis lawsuit that he's now dropped. With all the fake ads with his face on it. Facebook didn't seem to give a shit until he sued. Then suddenly did and now have agreed to donate 3 million (not much considering how much they have) to a scam charity with the CAB.

    Fuckbook are cunts (I like that word but first time using it on here, so it must be serious).

    1. Spasticus Autisticus
      Mushroom

      Re: This is similar...

      Stevie, like it. Cunts is also one of the few single words that sum up Fuckbook, and in the singular - Fuckerberg.

      Did I read somewhere that US companies have rights like a person or something similar? Well, if found guilty, jail FB for 20 years. Owners, directors, management, working from the top down do 1 month each of stir - and not in a cushy executive prison, but not necessarily in a top security hell hole, just a normal mid-range offender prison. A month of that is enough to get people's attention.

      Icon for what can't happen soon enough to FB

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: This is similar...

        Fuckbook was a happy accident. I type too quick and on the phone its a nightmare when it has changed a word without me spotting it and despite having turned off autocorrect. Also, on Android, it constantly puts . when not required despite having turned that feature off as well. Both of Samsung S4 and S8. I still prefer physical keyboards on mobiles, I miss them.

        And other times I'm supposed to be doing other things (the DIY) so before I get caught I just hit submit without checking.

        I standby calling Facebook a cunt though.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: This is similar...

      "With all the fake ads with his face on it. Facebook didn't seem to give a shit until he sued."

      I get a sense this is just standard US business practice. Any action on FBs part before being sued might be seen as an admission of guilt. And in the US, suing or being sued seems to be a nationwide, all comers, full participation sport, They don't seem to have even a concept of the way it works in the UK.

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: This is similar...

      I think that FB should be made to refund EVERY person ripped off by these scams.

      Their platform, their fault.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Did I read somewhere that US companies have rights like a person or something similar? Well, if found guilty, jail FB for 20 years"

    Probably. See e.g.

    https://money.howstuffworks.com/corporation-person2.htm

    which basically simplifies to

    "US companies have the same *rights* as a real person, but do not have the same responsibilities as a real person."

    In the real world, these matters are also subject to the usual "golden rule".

    That is, the published rules can be overriden by people with sufficient gold.

    The USA has the best lawyers money can buy, London has the best auditors that money can buy.

    After Brexit, once TTIP is resurrected, they'll be unstoppable.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I suppose this is yet another issue he's not going to come and explain to the Commons Select Committee amongst others.

  11. IJD

    Colleague at work's 8-year old son ran up a credit card bill for eight thousand quid in one month buying gold and stuff in an online children's game. Was playing on dad's iPad which had (password-protected) credit card payment details stored on it, in-app purchases auto-filled in payment details, needed password but kid has seen dad entering this and remembered it, entered it once and off he went. Of course he didn't think it was "real" money he was spending, he thought it was pretend money.

    Cue explosion when credit card bill arrived. He managed to get the money refunded by arguing with the online game firm that there's no way they should have allowed a young child to run up a bill of this size, at least without confirming the spend was authorized by the card holder.

    Yes you could say this was the fault of the parent for storing card details on a device that he allowed his son to play online games on, but as far as he was concerned payments were password-protected. For sure the online gaming company is more to blame for having a game targeted at children which allowed -- no, encouraged -- them to spend real money on in-app purchases. And the biggest blame goes to them for not having a system which flagged ridiculously high spends as likely to be fraudulent or at best unauthorized, which I guess is why they paid up -- if it had come to court they wouldn't have had a leg to stand on.

    1. M.V. Lipvig

      For every major blowout, there's a thousand kids who know that if they don't go overboard they can get away with it for months because their parents don't check balances or inspect purchases unless the amount is off by more than they expect to see. Depending on how the card is used and the affluence of the parents they might get away with a hundred or more a month. So, for every parent that catches it, 20 or 30 might not, or might assume it was for their own games. Makes for a pretty reliable income stream.

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