It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

Summary: It's time for the insanity to come to an end and for Apple And Microsoft to put spending limits in place for purchases made through iTunes and Xbox Live.

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It's time for the insanity to come to an end and for Apple And Microsoft to put spending limits in place for purchases made through iTunes and Xbox Live.

Here's two examples just from today. First, over to the Washington Post:

Over the winter break from school, 8-year-old Madison worked to dress up her simple mushroom home on the iPhone game Smurfs' Village. In doing so, she also amassed a $1,400 bill from Apple.

$99 for a "wagon of Smurfberries" or $19 for "a bucket of snowflakes" ... seriously? In a kids game? Who set these prices? Are they insane? Does anyone - other than kids - spend a Benjamin on such things?

OK, sure, it's also insane for parents to give their kids full-on access to an iTunes account that is linked to a back account or credit card, but to me there's as certain scammy quality to "wagon of Smurfberries" being on offer for $99. And on top of that, with Apple grabbing $30 from the sale of those Smurfberries (what the hell are Smurfberries anyway???) there's little incentive for Apple to do anything about it.

Here's another example, this time from WinRumors (I'm not linking to the Daily Mail):

Brendan Jordan racked up a bill of £1,082,52 on his Xbox LIVE account “without realising” the purchases were being billed to his mothers’s card. The schoolboy purchased accessories and new games for his Xbox using an Xbox LIVE account his mother had setup. Single mum-of-two, Dawn Matthews, is furious with Microsoft and blames the software giant for the purchases.

Again, putting aside the insanity of linking a credit/debit card to a kid's Xbox Live account, again to me it sounds highly irresponsible to allow hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to be spent on virtual goods.

Sure, people should be allowed to spend their money on whatever they want, so I'm not saying there should be a ban or a maximum spending ceiling, but I do feel that after a certain daily/weekly/monthly limit that the account holder should get an email or a quick call.

There's a fine line between something being lucrative, and starting to feel scammy. Apple is certainly sailing close to the wind with some of the in-app purchases it is allowing, and Microsoft could certainly do more to prevent this kind of bad publicity. Putting in place a spending limit that triggered a call or an email wouldn't harm anyone.

And it's clear that the current mechanism of relying on parental controls isn't enough.

Both companies need to get their act together.

[poll id="594"]

And no, my kids DON'T have access to a credit/debit card fed iTunes/Xbox Live accounts!

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Microsoft, Mobility

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  • RE: It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

    Is it time for parents to take responsibility for their children's actions?
    msalzberg
    • By default, they will: Smurf developer/Microsoft will hardly 4give mothers

      @msalzberg
      DDERSSS
    • RE: It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

      @msalzberg

      Exactly... Both iTunes and XBox have pretty decent parental controls. I know in XBox you can set an account to not be able to order anything but not sure in iTunes.

      You can also do what many parents do and just get them gift cards or buy cards for Microsoft points. If a parent is stupid enough to associate their credit card blindly to a child's account then that is their problem.
      bobiroc
    • RE: It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

      @msalzberg

      [i]Is it time for parents to take responsibility for their children's actions? [/i]

      Yes, but let's not give these companies a pass.

      If my kid breaks your window of course I will make you whole. We're talking about people who would market $99 virtual smurfberries to children. I don't think they are expecting adults to make that purchase.

      I think by publicizing this in mainstream media more parents will be alerted to danger of typing credit card numbers into products after they've already got them home.






      :)
      none none
      • I agree with writing about it

        @none none

        I don't agree that we should call on Microsoft, Apple or anyone to "fix" this. Be a responsible parent.
        LiquidLearner
      • RE: It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

        @none none

        Still do not see how they are in the wrong here. There are measures in place to prevent things like this using parental controls or simply not associating a credit card for unauthorized purchases. People are just too lazy and take the easy road instead of setting some restrictions or parenting their kids. Like I said before there are options that you can use iTunes Gift Cards to give the account credit therefore setting a limit. The same for XBox by purchasing MS Point cards associated with the account to set a limit. The gift card runs out or points are used up then simply do not buy any more.

        If the child steals the credit card and does that then punish them. At some point people need to be responsible for their own actions. Microsoft or Apple are not doing ANYTHING wrong with these services in the area of how things are paid for by the consumer.
        bobiroc
    • @msalzberg

      You're asking too much. "responsibility" is a big word, most people don't understand in today's digital world.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

        @Cylon Centurion 0005
        Digital smigdetal... Credit cards have been around for a longggggg time. If a parent is dumb enough to associate their CC with an account that can make purchases and then give their kid access to it... It is the parents fault.

        This is not a digital age thing, this is a stupidity thing.
        Geuseppi
    • RE: It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

      @msalzberg

      +1000

      iTunes purchasing can be disabled on children's devices.

      It's up to parents to manage these things, there are prepaid voucher options.

      There's another one that has been overlooked, Facebook in-game purchases eg from Zynga.
      alsobannedfromzdnet
    • RE: It's time for iTunes and Xbox Live to put spending limits in place

      @msalzberg
      Agreed
      loggie48mxg
    • AMEN!

      @msalzberg

      Why should we have companies limit our purchasing ability, when it's really up to parents to control what their kids buy? And if they don't, guess what? It's too damn bad. If they link their credit card to their kids' Xbox or other gadgets, then they cannot claim ignorance if they try to deny the charges.

      Jeez, I've had enough of this nanny-state crap for a LIFETIME!
      SAStarling
  • Vote with your pocketbook.

    "Dear Steve Balmer,

    I am canceling my Live account today because your company engages in harmful and shameful practices that endanger my finances. When you have this problem fixed, I will be happy to resume buying your service.

    Yours truly,
    XXXXXXXXXX"

    This is how capitalism works.
    terry flores
    • Dear Sir/Madam:

      We'll take whatever appropriate actions we deem necessary on our end, and we're sorry that we might lose you as a customer, but...

      If you would learn how to take responsible actions to control your spending and that of your family members, then you wouldn't be having any problems with our company or any other.

      That's where responsibility begins.

      Yours truly...
      XXXXXXXXXXX

      P.S.: Capitalism is not a one way street.
      adornoe
      • re: Dear Sir/Madam:

        @adornoe@...

        LOL!

        Or put another way:

        Dear Company,

        Your product contains poison harmful to health. I am not going to buy it until you take the poison out.

        Sincerely,
        XXXXXXX


        Dear XXXXXX

        Yes, our product does contain poison and we heavily promote the use of poison. Especially to children. However it is your responsibility to not eat poison or feed it to your kids. Now go suck eggs.

        Best regards,
        Company




        :)
        none none
  • I don't believe it...

    Via iOS.. you have to input the password of the iTunes account whenever you make a purchase in an app for the first time since that app has been started. It forces this to ensure the right person is authorizing the purchase. Now.. I suppose "Mom" could have made a purchase in the game and then not exited the game and let the little kid purchase smurfberries... but I see it as unlikely. Sounds like someone is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.
    condelirios
  • I have to disagree.

    Looks like I am in the minority here but no, it is time for people to take personal responsibility for their actions. From the above to wireless overages to "it is the banks fault they fooled me into borrowing more money than I can afford", the answer is no. We need to stop enabling (and infantalizing) people to not have to take any responsibility for the things they do.

    If there is a "scam" involved such as making it look like the child is spending "virtual dollars" when in fact they are real or in the xbox example, pricing hidden in fine print (no idea if that is the case, just an example) then I will be her slamming those companies and demanding their money back, but if that is not the case, learn your lesson, don't give your kids free access to all your money.

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • re: I have to disagree.

      @TripleII

      [i]From the above to wireless overages to "it is the banks fault they fooled me into borrowing more money than I can afford", the answer is no.[/i]

      Disagree. You would make buyer beware the law of the land and give legitimacy to economic predation.




      :)
      none none
      • It's called reading.

        @none none
        If you can't read, you probably shouldn't sign a contract. Over the years I have bought and sold a few homes (moved, not a realtor) and each and every time I was presented with truth in lending forms (national requirement) and explicitly told everything about financing. If I don't read it or understand it, I shouldn't sign it.

        And please note that if anything slimey or scammy is uncovered, I will fully support holding the companies accountable.

        So, if you sign up for AT&T on their 2GB plan and use 5GB and have to pay an extra $500 because you didn't understand it is ENTIRELY your fault unless they lied to you or otherwise called it "unlimited" when it isn't.

        TripleII
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
      • It's called the new American Dream

        @TripleII

        It makes me sick to know that the majority here seems to think companies should act to protect them. America was built on the idea that your own hard work could get you somewhere. No matter where you were born, no matter who you were, if you worked hard enough you could make something of yourself. Of course if you failed it was also on you.

        Apparently because the last couple of generations did so well people today just feel as though their entitled to being protected by someone else at every turn. It's the bank's fault that they didn't know I couldn't afford $2000/month for my mortgage. It's Microsoft's fault I ignored the three warnings that popped up and insisted on installing this video codec to watch the Kim K video. It's Apple's fault I didn't block my kid from being able to buy stuff in an app or on iTunes. It's Microsoft's fault I didn't use parental controls to prevent this from happening. It's always someone else's fault.
        LiquidLearner
      • re: It's called reading.

        @Triplell<br><br><i>If you can't read, you probably shouldn't sign a contract.</i><br><br>The iTunes/Store contract is 15,000 words meticulously crafted by the best lawyers money can buy. You're telling me you're going to read and understand that without legal advice? <br><br>Did you buy and sell those homes without your lawyer going over the paperwork? I'm certain your lender had a lawyer. Must be because he can't read. Right?<br><br>Slimey? Scammy? There's no such thing in your view. In your view, as you peresent it, there's legal and not legal. If they've covered their you-know whats in their fine print, then anything they do is fine because anyone who is simply able to read would know whether a court has ruled similar terms unenforceable in the past.<br><br>Furthermore, I'd wager the $99 basket of smurfberries ultimately doesn't even belong to the hapless child who "purchased" it. If mom stops paying the subscription fees, or violates a contract term and gets booted, those expensive smurfberries are history.<br><br>So Apple is charging $99 for NOTHING. On the face of it, that's not slimey or scammy to you?




        :)
        none none