Our 11-year-old daughter ran up a £2,400 Roblox gaming bill

My wife was in hospital and couldn’t monitor her spending on in-app purchases

My 11-year-old daughter made more than 300 in-app purchases over five days on Roblox, the online games platform, resulting in a £2,400 bill on my wife’s PayPal account.

At the time, my wife was in ICU recovering from a 15-hour operation to remove a brain tumour. Incapacitated, and without access to her phone, she was unable to authorise or monitor this spending.

The first I knew about it was when our bank informed us that we had exceeded our overdraft limit.

My daughter managed to make 48 separate purchases, totalling almost £250, in a single day. At what point does a company step in to investigate this level of activity?

Roblox, Apple and PayPal have all refused to refund the money. I appreciate the comeback on this is better account supervision, but normally my wife picks up purchase notifications via email from PayPal but was unable to do this.

TON, Lymm, Cheshire

Several parents have contacted me after their children unwittingly ran up shock bills while using Roblox.

With so many families reliant on screens to help them through lockdown, there will doubtless be many who are unaware that giving a child a smartphone is tantamount to handing over their credit card, unless precautions are taken. A survey by the NSPCC in 2019 showed that just 19% of parents activated controls on their children’s devices to prevent unauthorised purchases.

While many games are free, players are often encouraged to buy virtual add-ons. What children generally don’t realise is that virtual purchases cost real money.

If their devices are linked to their parents’ PayPal or Apple log-ins, it’s their card that will be debited. Generally Apple – and banks – deem the payments to be authorised if parents allow their offspring to access their cards, albeit unwittingly.

After I contacted Apple it has agreed to refund £759.93 because of the exceptional circumstances. It says this is what was spent during the five-day spree and disputed the £2,400, claiming it exceeds the total spent since the account was created.

Roblox says: “We strive to make it very difficult for children to make unauthorised purchases, such as not storing billing information. However, if a purchase is made through certain third-party mobile providers, like iTunes, as in this case, we are unable to issue the refund.

“We encourage parents to review their payment settings on those services as they typically have an option to require a password for each purchase and/or to prevent any information from being saved in browser settings that could allow them to be reused.”

Apple allows parents to adjust the controls to prevent purchases, or to flag up proposed transactions before they’re made.

Last year, The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) launched its Get Smart About Play campaign to address concerns about the number of parents failing to use parental controls on internet-connected devices.

If you need help email your.problems@observer.co.uk. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions


Anna Tims

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Apple refuses a refund after my sister ran up £1,100 bill on ‘bundles’
She has a learning disability and doesn’t know what in-app purchases are

Anna Tims

20, Aug, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Cash request from a Facebook ‘friend’ left me £300 out of pocket
I was defrauded by a hacker posing as someone I knew who said he needed help

Anna Tims

03, Jul, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Is a PayPal payment protected?
I want to book a Spanish villa and this is the suggested method of payment

Anna Tims

26, May, 2016 @6:00 AM

Article image
Why does PayPal’s ‘seller protection’ fail to protect?
If a buyer claims an item is not as described there’s no cover for the seller

Anna Tims

01, Feb, 2018 @11:44 AM

Article image
PayPal refused protection as a known fraudster bags my £3,100
I lost my Dior tote and eBay refunded me but PayPal is issuing a chargeback

Anna Tims

16, Oct, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Caught between PayPal, eBay and Royal Mail over the return of a faulty phone
They all agree I should get my money back for a faulty phone … but won’t take responsibility

Anna Tims

11, Nov, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
PayPal says my mouse mat violates international sanctions
I ordered a ‘Persian rug’ pad from Etsy and then had to prove where it was made

Anna Tims

12, Aug, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
I missed my easyJet flight as Apple’s Calendar app gave me the wrong time
A hyperlink from the airline’s website was an hour out, so when I got to the airport, the flight was closed

Anna Tims

21, Sep, 2016 @6:00 AM

Article image
Currys website crash wipes out £250-worth of gift cards
I was trying to buy Apple Watch SE on Black Friday and lost out on the chance to get one

Rebecca Smithers

15, Dec, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
Does Apple’s iPad Pro fail the cracked screen test?
The super-slim tablet is said by some to crack too easily. And when the tech giant charges £566 for a repair, is it being unfair?

Miles Brignall

15, Oct, 2016 @6:00 AM