Addictive puzzle game cost Northampton dad £414 through in-app ‘gold coin’ purchases

Juice Jam is one of thousands of apps to feature in-app purchases.
Juice Jam is one of thousands of apps to feature in-app purchases.

An addictive Facebook puzzle game has landed a Northampton dad with a £414 bill after his son unwittingly racked up charges through its ‘in-app purchasing’.

Kingsthorpe father-of-three, Alastair Leith, issued a warning to others about the hefty prices associated with thousands of simple games available on the internet.

Alistair Leith with son Alexander, left. Alistair says game designers and Facebook need to rethink a policy which allows in-app purchases to be made without asking to re-enter credit card details. dI9fGMfA_aKrdKYepE55

Alistair Leith with son Alexander, left. Alistair says game designers and Facebook need to rethink a policy which allows in-app purchases to be made without asking to re-enter credit card details. dI9fGMfA_aKrdKYepE55

The plea comes after his five-year-old son Alexander, who has autism, racked up £414 of charges in only a few days by playing the game ‘Juice Jam’ through his Facebook account.

As Mr Leith uses the social networking site to advertise, his credit card details are stored as part of his Facebook log in details.

However it meant that whenever his son bought more ‘coins’ as part of the addictive puzzle game, the site did not prompt the five-year-old Delapre Primary School pupil to enter the card details again each time.

Mr Leith said: “What I’m annoyed about is that Facebook makes it so easy that children can make a payment in the first place,

“So many devices do not log off automatically.

“It makes it so easy for children to go on these things and run up substantial bills, - and in my view that cannot be ethical.”

Mr Leith feels more needs to be done by the app developers and Facebook to make it harder to pay for in-game apps.

In total Mr Leith was charged several payments of up to £63.78 for in-app purchases of coin packs.

But Mr Leith also believes the game developers need to bring the cost of the in-app purchases in line too.

“I wouldn’t even pay £63 for advertising, let alone some coins in a video game,” he said.

“But the thing is children want to reach the end of these games and they won’t understand that it costs lots of money.”

A spokeswoman for software developer, SGN, said: “SGN makes games based on the parameters set by the platforms it publishes on including Facebook, iOS, Google Play and Amazon. Juice Jam is a free-to-play game, with optional in-app purchases that are not required in order to finish the game. The company also handles all customer service inquiries within 24 hours and refunds accidental purchases or unintended transactions when appropriate. This particular inquiry from the UK was handled by customer service within 12 hours of receiving, where they were given refund information and advised to increase their Facebook security options. SGN is also fully compliant with the Children’s Online Protection Act (COPA).

Facebook has been contacted for comment.

Mr Leith said he had disputed the payments and was asking for his money back from Facebook.

He also plans to write to Northampton North MP Michael Ellis in a bid to see the matter raised in parliament.