Son racks up $4500 in FIFA microtransactions, father pays the price

We’ve all seen the battles with Apple as parents/spouses realise how much money has been spent on the Candy Crush’s and Smurfs’ Village’s of the world. Now instead of increments of 79p think £79 and you’ve got the problem of father Jeremy Hillman whose thirteen year old son spent over $4500 on FIFA microtransations on his Xbox One. Ouch.

Writing on a post on Medium, Hillman says that he initially noticed a few charges on his credit card at $109. After speaking to his son who admitted he had been trying to buy player packs in Ultimate Team, Hillman called Microsoft to report the incident. It was only when he was on the phone that their agent asked about the other charges that added up to more than $4500.

Hillman takes complete responsibility for his son’s actions and says that he and his wife should have paid closer attention to the spending but highlights a clear issue with microtransactions and the dangers associated. “The answer to us now is clear - he became addicted to the game, spending $100 was as easy as clicking a button, there were no barriers, and it didn’t feel like real money even though it has a dollar sign on the screen.”

Hillman fairly says that there is no password barrier, nothing to stop players from repeatedly spending and no issues with the fact that his son’s age was clearly on the account where the transactions were taking place. The storing of his credit card details was also a surprise. “I had no knowledge that $100 in-game purchases could even be made and no wish for my credit card to be openly available for use for ever more.”

It’s an issue that Apple is tackling now by making it clear on each app that in-app purchases are available and making a password essential for each one within a certain space of time. Should Microsoft take more responsibility when it comes to cases such as this one? Hillman fairly states that parental control systems are in place but the majority of parents have neither the time nor expertise to use these properly.

Hillman hasn’t been reimbursed but is quite rightly asking the questions of responsibility, especially when it comes to the huge sums of money that Microsoft will not refund for cases like this. “If Microsoft wanted to spare thousands of parents from frustration, anger and sometimes, serious financial consequences then it could find a hundred ways to do it. It has just chosen not to. If there’s a lawyer out there that wants to start a class action against Microsoft and force them into compensation and adopting a better policy I’ll happily sign up.”

It's easy to say that parents should just pay more attention but should it really be this easy to do? Are the current systems enough or should there be more barriers in place to stop us emptying our bank accounts into our consoles?

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode.