By KEVIN KOENINGER
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) – “Too bad, so sad,” Microsoft tells parents after defrauding them by letting their children run up massive charges for add-ons to play X-Box Live games online, parents claim in a federal class action.
Lead plaintiff Norma Roy claims that Microsoft saves parents’ credit card numbers and bills them – and breaks a slew of laws – by letting kids buy extra weapons and other tools in multiplayer online games.
It cost her $508.33, Roy says, part of the more than $1.2 billion Microsoft made from X-Box Live video games. Many of those dollars came from children, who cannot legally contract with Microsoft, Roy says.
Microsoft is a sneak, Roy says in effect: “To verify that its users under 18 years have their parents’ consent, X-Box Live asks for the input of a valid credit card to authenticate address and name information. This also allows children to subscribe to the X-Box Live gaming service, with payments processed through parents’ credit cards.
“What Microsoft fails to disclose is that once the credit card info is input into the system, the credit card info is saved and used to pay for purchases that children and those under 18 years make. These purchases are made without parents’ consent or verification. These purchases are for up-armor, extra lives, increased health, or more powerful weaponry.
“These purchases are made through controller inputs on a screen and take several seconds. These purchases are typically made to beat or continue in unbeatable games, whereas the player cannot continue in a game without the additional purchases. As the purchases can be made rapidly, a child can quickly charge hundreds of dollars to the parents’ credit cards, without the parent’s consent or knowledge.”
The complaint continues: “To fix the problem would be extremely easy and Microsoft could mitigate the defect by requiring the user to input the CCV code from the back of the credit card or input of the parents’ Personal Identification Number (PIN) code. Yet, Microsoft through its X-Box LIVE service chooses not to do this.
“Allowing children to purchase additional features and/or gameplay through their parents saved credit card information is illegal in the United States, insofar that minors cannot contract for non-essential or non-life threatening services. Nor can
minors use parents’ credit cards in a retail, brick-and-mortar setting, without parents’ permission.
“Microsoft is and was aware of this substantial defect in its online gaming system, but failed to disclose it or warn plaintiffs and the class of the defect. Prior to the
introduction of its arbitration clause in October 2012, Microsoft continued to market and sell additional features such as up-armor,’ lives, and weapons to minors, where parent’s credit card accounts are covertly charged. Despite numerous complaints, Microsoft refuses to fix the system, or offer refunds to parent cardholders.
“If Microsoft Customer Service is called and a refund is requested, Microsoft will
say, ‘Too bad, so sad’ and ‘Sorry, that’s the policy.’ These responses show that
Microsoft had knowledge of the defect, yet willfully and intentionally decided to hide the defect, resulting in continuing damage to the class.”
X-Box Live, introduced in 2002, is “the only online gaming service on consoles that charges users a fee to play multiplayer gaming,” Roy says in the complaint.
“(T)he X-Box Live gaming area is constructed so that portions of the game, levels, characters, etc. cannot be beaten without the purchase of additional skills, weaponry, armor, health points, and lives. That is, although parts of the gameplay are advertised as free, the consumer must purchase additional things to beat or win the game such as ‘up-armor’, increased-skill, more lives, or stronger weapons. The games are unbeatable without these purchases.”
Microsoft dinged Roy’s credit card for $508.33 in less than a month, she says, in nine charges ranging from $5.40 (two times) to $81.18 (six times).
She seeks compensatory and punitive damages for fraud, deceptive trade, negligence, breach of warranty and unjust enrichment.
She is represented by Omar Rosales, of Harlingen, Texas.