Facebook stimulated game expenses of children

Jan

25

2019

Facebook stimulated game expenses of children without parents’ permission
Facebook advised game developers, according to documents, not to take action against expenses that children do on the platform without parental consent. Attempts to contain this practice would have a negative impact on sales.

Facebook used the term friendly fraud internally to indicate the practice where children spend money on games without their parents having given permission. In an internal memo about the social network policy on friendly fraud, the company indicates that game developers should not block this. In case of complaints, the developers should offer free virtual items. Because they do not cost anything, the developers do not have to worry about losing due to refunds. Facebook also considered developing a system to automatically challenge redemption requests before they were assessed in terms of content.

The practices are brought to light by RevealNews , which relies on documents from 2010 through 2014. The documents have been released as part of a class action law case involving children’s spending on games such as Angry Birds, PetVille and Ninja Saga. .

The documents show that Facebook knew that many children without their parents’ permission spent money and that many children themselves did not even realize that they were spending money in their games. The company also knew that many parents did not know that their credit card was linked to their account and that expenses could be made without further verification. The costs amounted to thousands of dollars for some families, after which the parents had to make a lot of effort to get their money back.

In response to the many requests for reimbursement, Facebook tested an extra step whereby children had to type in six digits of the credit card before they could make an expense. The test was successful, but did not lead to implementation due to the impact on sales. The strategy for dealing with requests for reimbursement was ‘maximizing turnover’, can be seen from the documents.

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