Ralph J. Moeller is the CEO of two independent software/service vendors and has been working in IT as consultant, software developer and trainer since 1991. He is married and lives in Vienna/Austria.
His big interest in games led to a postgraduate study of Game Studies which he finished in 2016, to be followed by a study in Game-based Media and Education. He also has considerable interest in Transmedia Storytelling.
In his free time he plays the piano and electric guitar. He also is a vivid collector of books, comics, musical instruments and vinyl records. He has way too little space for all of his stuff.
Monetizing Minors – When kids spend their parent’s income on gaming content
FROG 2023 – Talk
Austrian organization VKI “Verein für Konsumenteninformation” (Austrian Organization for Consumer Information) reports a considerable increase in cases where underage children purchase in-game items for online games (like lootboxes, in-game-currency, weapons, equipment) without actual consent or knowledge of their legal guardians. Some cases go as far as exceeding credit card limits, resulting in severe financial damage for parents and relatives.
VKI, stepping in by trying to defend consumer’s rights, reports that credit card data has often been acquired by children either without consent or knowledge of parents or, in other cases, adults (often grandparents) have given consent as they were told by the kid the card data was only for “age verification”.
Children “borrowing” credit cards, getting adult relatives to enter card information into gaming portals, clueless parents unable to control their offspring’s game consumption; there are multiple cases.
This is a problem.
As naïve as some adults may appear here: For companies to urge minors to buy in-game items for amounts equaling a month’s pay is not legally covered by Austrian consumer laws. Especially children below 14 are legally unable to make purchases of such amounts.
This is where consumer organizations are trying to step in as parents or relatives being affected by such purchases are entitled for a refund – which companies often try to prevent by erecting electronic barriers that seem impenetrable by the average consumer.
This talk shall present multiple cases currently under investigation by consumer organizations like VKI. Also, some real-life scenarios on how gaming companies handle consumer refund requests will be shown (from the presenter’s own personal experience).
A discussion on how damage can and should be prevented will close the talk.