Facebook shot down safeguards to keep kids from overspending in Facebook Games


She came up with a potential fix - requiring input of the first six digits of a credit card for payments in certain games - and suggested Facebook start issuing refunds for blatant cases of "friendly fraud", the site reported.

It's a troubling affair, but one that game developers should pay close attention to as the conversation about ethical monetization, especially when children are involved, isn't likely to wind down at any point in the future. What he didn't realize was that Facebook had stored his mom's credit card and was charging it as he played the game. Facebook said it released documents after being instructed by the court, having already voluntarily unsealed documents following a request from the Center for Investigative Reporting. In the worst case, one boy, who was reportedly 12-years-old at the time, spent $610.40 on "Ninja Saga" before his mother's credit card company flagged up the odd activity.

According to Reveal News' summary, the children individually spent hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars on games such as Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Barn Buddy, and Petville from 2010 to 2014. Internal reports at Facebook showed that young users did not know they were spending genuine cash on the in-game purchases. "This only exacerbates the problem since it doesn't necessarily look like "real" money to a minor," an employee wrote, according to the internal emails. Instead, it encouraged the game developers to offer free items to children and parents who complained.

Another exhibit showed a Facebook employee querying why "most of these games with FF-minor problems" were "defaulting to the highest-cost setting in the purchase flows".

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"That user looks underage as well", one Facebook employee noted, perhaps a "13ish year old". Finnish game developer Rovio, the name behind Angry Birds, prompted the investigation by Facebook after noticing an unusually high refund rate. Bohannon was unable to dispute the charges with Facebook; she filed a lawsuit, but was treated "terribly", her lawyer told Reveal.

A colleague replied: "I wouldn't refund".

Facebook issued the following statement to Tom's Guide: "We were contacted by the Center for Investigative Reporting a year ago, and we voluntarily unsealed documents related to a 2012 case about our refund policies for in-app purchases that parents believe were made in error by their minor children". The class action case was settled by Facebook in 2016, agreeing "to dedicate an internal queue to refund requests for in-app purchases". In 2016, this lead to an update to the social network's terms and conditions that would provide "dedicated resources for refund requests relation to purchases made by minors on Facebook".