For many families, Coronavirus crisis means more time at home, and with it, children using electronic devices. Screen time has increased during the epidemic – more than six hours a day, according to A. ParentsTogether Surveys – resulting in a surprise credit card fee from apps, online games and streaming services.
If your child surprised you with a credit card purchase, it can be difficult to get a refund from a merchant or credit card company, but there are some options. Here’s a look at what parents can do and how they can prevent such allegations from happening again.
How are Unexpected Credit Card Charges?
When you provide your credit card to sign up with a cable company, streaming service, gaming system, or even an online game, you often do not pay a subscription or one-time fee. You are also leaving that card open for future purchases, as you open the bar tab.
Charges for game apps on your smartphone can be levied through your phone’s platform, such as Apple or Google, or through the gaming system. If you shop through your phone platform or streaming service, you will see a charge titled by the company – such as “Apple” or “Netflix” – on your card statement.
These purchases can range from an on-demand movie to a streaming game to an online game for rewards that your child may not feel will cost real money.
“There can be some confusion, especially with children, where the line is – what is real money and what is virtual currency”, says Brittany Fracetto, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
In-game purchases, also known as microtransports, are found on popular video games such as Fortnite or Counter-Strike and can be one of the most difficult purchases to track down and prevent. They can be found in an avatar, in-game currency and mystery rewards “loot boxes” or “loot chests”.
In-app purchases have been a concern for the FTC, a major agency that has consumer protection as one of its main missions. It brought cases against Apple, Amazon and Google several years ago, winning agreements on children’s mobile apps to refund millions of dollars in charges levied by children without parental consent.
What can you do if you have unexpected charges?
If an unexpected streaming service or gaming system charge appears on your credit card statement, here are some steps.
To start, do some detective work.
“You have to discuss with the children: where did this charge come from?” The lawyer and founder of the Tayyen Law Group in New York says lawyer Leslie Tenne.
If the fee was recent, it would be easy to find out who made it and what was purchased. Some companies will help – for example, you can see Apple related allegations Online.
If the charge is truly unauthorized – in other words, no one from your family has made purchases from that business – then you should Report fraud to your credit card company, Which provides full protection from potentially fraudulent allegations. But the fees from your child – even if they are unpredictable – cannot be considered fraudulent, so if you want to get your money back, you will need to take a different approach.
Once you find out what was charged and when, and you have decided that you want to get a refund, you should approach the business and not the credit card company.
“When you’re working with a credit card company and having some disputes, they usually want to know if you’ve reached out to the merchant,” Taine says.
“The sooner a dispute is over something, the more legitimate it is,” she says.
The business likely wants to avoid a refund, also known as a chargeback, so you will need to provide your case in a calm, logical manner and provide as much information as possible.
“It’s going to depend on what the issue is,” Tenay says. “If the child is using a game that is confusing in a way – it looks like a cartoon and it makes it easier for them to buy something – there’s a hoax. If you’re a parent and watch, you can Can argue with the company about it. “
In addition, your child can sign-up for a subscription-based app that was tested free, but he ended up charging money – a situation where you think you signed up for one thing Doing it and it’s something else entirely, ”says Fracetto.
Discuss with credit card issuer
However, keep in mind that companies have clearly articulated policies related to refunds. For example, American Express suggests that consumers first talk to the business that created the charge. If the issue escalates to the credit card company, American Express will follow its normal handling and chargeback procedures, which follow the merchant’s terms and conditions at the time of the transaction.
Tayen says that it is important to remember that businesses are customers of credit card companies, meaning that issuers are a neutral third party and will not favor a consumer in a dispute. You want to specify your case in charge, when and how it happened, your discussion with the merchant and any other details you have.
“You want to give them enough information, so the determination is in your favor,” says Tenay.
One way to make your case is to say that the charge was a mistake made by your child and ask that it be returned.
Your relationship with the credit card company can be a deciding factor. For example, have you had a card for many years? Do you use it often and pay on time? Have you not made many – if any – requests for refunds? All those elements can work in your favor during a dispute.
“When you’re doing conflicting things with a credit card company, you want to be reliable,” says Tenay. If you constantly ask for a refund or the same refund, then the credit card company can no longer help you.
For example, if you want to prevent recurring payments from happening, “be sure to tell the credit card company and tell the merchant that you have revoked any authorization for future fees,” says Tenay. “Otherwise, month after month you’re going to end up with a fee.”
To file a complaint about a fee, make sure you have submitted written notice within 60 days of the first bill that was in error, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Has several other provisions to review regarding disputed allegations Fair Credit Billing Act.
Also, be sure to pay your credit card bill during the dispute process, as you may charge an interest fee. If you win your dispute, you are likely to get a refund, but interest may not be covered.
How can parents stop unexpected credit card fees?
Many accidental credit card charges can be prevented from children if parents establish correct parental control over game systems, smartphone platforms, and apps.
“You can’t blame the child,” Tenay says. “At some point you have to step up and get control of it. This is not so easy, as all these apps require a credit card. “
Here are some steps to get a handle on all possible charge outlets:
If you do not have a list of all the accounts associated with your credit card, then it is time to create one. You might be surprised.
Review the accounts to make sure your children are using them Stop payment Which are not active.
Many companies have ways for parents to sign sports-related shopping and other entertainment:
- Apple: You can set limits via Family sharing, Where parents can approve downloads and purchases.
- Google: A parent can approve all purchases and receive an email receipt for each Google play. Children under the age of 13 can only pay using the family payment method.
- Microsoft: a Offer parental control Allows promotional purchases and buying history for Xbox.
- Nintendo: Are available for parental control Nintendo Switch And other equipment.
- Sony: Account holders can set up PlayStation Family spending limit Per month and alerts about purchases.
- Applications: Before downloading the app, you can consult the rating Entertainment Software Rating Board, Which will tell you if the game includes in-app purchases. You also want to see what kind of spending is under control.
Review the statements frequently
Open and review all credit card statements immediately to see if there are any suspicious charges. Better yet, check online at least once a week to see what charges are associated with your account.
If you believe that your children have been deceived by a game that tricked them into making an inadvertent purchase, file a complaint Helping save others from the same fate.
“Controls are really helpful, but if something happens, we want to hear about it,” says Fracetto. “There are a lot of apps, and they are popping up all the time. Consumers are truly our first line of defense. “