A father who initially paid £ 4.99 for his 11-year-old daughter to use a smartphone app was shocked to discover an account for thousands of pounds a month later.
Steve Cumming, 72, said he had allowed her to make what she thought was a one-time payment on her debit card to a company called Roblox.
After examining his balance a month later, he saw that thousands had been charged.
Roblox says he will refund it.
Roblox is an online multiplayer game with around 100 million users worldwide.
It is especially popular with children. His business model is based on in-app purchases. Roblox can be downloaded for free, but users can therefore spend money while playing.
Cumming wrote on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show to explain that his 11-year-old daughter had unwittingly paid the huge bill while playing during the blockade.
“My daughter told me that all her friends were playing this game and she wanted to spend £ 4.99,” he said. “He made the purchase with my debit card on April 16th and I haven’t thought about it anymore.”
During the pandemic blockade he decided to join online banking.
“I’m not very tech-savvy. Because of the coronavirus I couldn’t visit the bank and didn’t want to use ATMs, so I decided to sign up for online banking,” he said.
When he first logged in, almost a month after that initial payment to Roblox, he was shocked to find that £ 4,642 had gone and was in his overdraft.
Holiday plans canceled
“When I first logged in almost a month later, I was amazed to see hundreds and hundreds of separate transactions, all ranging from £ 0.99 to £ 9.99. I couldn’t understand it. I thought I was cheated. “
He realized he had lost around £ 3,500, then phoned his bank, HSBC, to cancel his card. Despite this, an additional £ 1,000 or so left his account and was paid to Roblox via Google Play, he says.
“My daughter was really upset when we told her about the financial consequences. She thought she was playing with monopoly money – it didn’t seem real. How can these companies be able to trap children in these games? To trap people who are vulnerable?” He said.
He said he also thinks that the government should step in and change the law.
“I go on with my pension. But that’s a lot of money for me. I had allocated it for a vacation when this pandemic is over. I wanted to pay to take a break for my daughter. We can’t and I’m in my overdraft.
Whose responsibility is it?
Steve admits that he did not read the terms and conditions of the sale when he allowed his daughter to initially spend £ 4.99 on his debit card.
But he says he is surprised that in a game designed to be played by children it would even be possible to spend thousands of pounds on thousands of transactions over the course of a few weeks.
After being contacted by the BBC for comment, the company said it would issue a refund.
“We are committed to preventing unauthorized purchases by taking measures such as not storing billing information, and we work directly with parents to provide adequate refunds whenever possible, as is the case here,” Roblox told the BBC.
“We encourage parents to review their payment settings on third-party services, such as Google Play, as they typically have an option to request a password for each purchase made and / or to prevent any information from being saved in the browser settings. which could allow for reuse. “
His bank HSBC said: “We are in solidarity with Mr. Cumming and appreciate that these payments have been a surprise to him. We have received a complaint about a dispute over these payments and will examine the circumstances surrounding the matter more closely in accordance with with the Visa Dispute Policy. “
You can listen to an interview with Mr Cumming on Friday Jeremy Vine Show.