Children + RMAH = Disaster / Litigation?

A fan brought up news about an ongoing lawsuit against Apple that’s got some interesting RMAH implications. The topic was, of course, immediately Blue-blocked on, but since it’s worth discussing, and since you’re reading this site since you want the whole news and the freedom to discuss it, here’s a quote:

A group of California parents unhappy with Apple over money they didn’t know their children were spending in games has now gotten the go-ahead from a California judge to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the company.

The suit revolves around “game currencies” — real money used within games to buy coins or other in-game tools — that the parents claim children purchased without their knowledge.

Apple has argued that the issue should be dismissed as the in-app purchases were stated in the Terms & Conditions signed by the parents before purchasing the app, “thus making the individuals purchases not voidable.” However, Judge Edward Davila ruled against Apple’s request to dismiss the case. That doesn’t mean the parents have prevailed, but it does mean that both Apple and the parents will continue to pay for this fight.

This issue has often come up in conversation about the DiabloWikiRMAH in Diablo III, as players point out the potential for abuse by children and others who may be legally-incompetent to make such real money transactions. Obviously buying items in the D3 RMAH isn’t the same sort of predatory bait and switch scam as the “free to play” Smurf Village example cited in the news piece, but it’s inevitable that someone will try to get their money back and/or file lawsuits against Blizzard over some RMAH purchase they claim they didn’t mean to make, or didn’t realize was a real money purchase when they made it.

It’s not the same thing, but the ultimate legal scenario is the “bought RMAH for Hardcore, lost it all when the realm crashed.” That one seemed ruled out when Real Money Trading was not included in Hardcore, but as Jay Wilson has recently said they probably will put RMAH in HC after launch, it might one day be back on the table.

Also, note the last paragraph of the news. No matter how much software company lawyers wish it were so, requiring customers to click “agree” on something outrageous in the ToS or EULA does not guarantee that a court won’t overturn it. Those agreements have been struck down by courts on numerous occasions, especially in the still-evolving area of digital rights and properties.

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    60 thoughts on “Children + RMAH = Disaster / Litigation?

    1. Completely different scenario, because on an Apple device you use the same payment method to buy everything, and it’s tied to your device. So you might be fine with your kid buying the odd $1 app, but not OK with them buying $200 of in-game currency in said app… but there’s no set distinction between the two.
      My understanding of the D3 RMAH is that you will have a seperate balance used ONLY for the RMAH. Thus, as a parent, you could put in as much or as little money as you want and that’s all the child could use. And they could ONLY use it for that purpose. Unless they have access to your credit card, in which case it’s irrelevant since they could buy anything they want online anyway.

    2. There is no argument here.

      Diablo 3 is Rated M for Mature. According to the ESRB, it is meant for 17+ age players. There is no way in hell Blizzard should be accountable if a parent let his kid play, nor if a store sold it to kids.

      The game is meant for adults with adult implications. It is a totally different ballgame with Apple wherein kids can access childish games and buy in-game items with real cash.

      Bottom line is, children shouldn’t have access with D3. There is no lawsuit in the world that can bring Blizzard down because of it. It is like blaming a company that make guns if kids suddenly started playing with them.

      • Though I don’t think it is comparable to Apple because you have to actually apply the CC to the account, the game’s rating is irrelevant. The ESRB rating is a guide, not a legal restriction. As a parent you can legally give a 3 year old an M rated game, there is no law about it. Much like a child can watch an R rated movie if a parent gives it to them.

        • So if you’re a bad parent and give your 6 y.old a game that uses real money and is rated M , you should also suffer the consequences without bitching about it and suing companies that release the games.
          Plus, Cash Shops aren’t exacly new, and this should be connected to Cash Shops more rather then the RMAH.

          • See, the thing about “bad parents” is that they rarely want to take personal responsibility for anything (hence making them bad at parenting, which requires a lot of responsibility). What they “should” do is a lot less relevant than what they could or will do.

          • Like I said, I don’t think they should be liable, especially since they’d have to connect the account manually, but ESRB ratings are irrelevant in this case.

        • Wrong.  The ESRB rating IS a restriction, for the sellers point of view anyway.

          While it is true that no rating in the world can prevent kids to do whatever they want, the responsibility lies on the sellers, the store, the people that provides them.

          A gaming store shouldn’t, at all means, sell a rated-M game to a little boy. A movie theatre shouldn’t let kids watch an R-rated movie. A beer store shouldn’t sell kids to minors.. The list goes on.

          The ESRB rating is designed for the adults. To let them know what is ok and what is not ok to sell. It is a restriction, and a damn good one at that.

          While there is no law that can stop (really stop) underage kids in doing the banned stuff, there is one can give Gamestop trouble if they sell rated-M to minors. And if push comes to shove, the blame will go to the sellers and institutions for not upholding the age requirement.

          • He’s not “wrong” at all. The ESRB is not a restriction, at least not in the US, and the US Supreme Court has prevented laws that would prohibit the sales of M-rated games to children. This is different in other areas – it varies by province in Canada, and some areas restrict the sale of R-rated movies to minors – but that’s how it works in the US.

            The ESRB is not intended as a system to restrict merchants. The ESRB is designed for parents as a way to quickly gauge the content of a game and decide for themselves whether or not it’s appropriate for their children. From the ESRB’s own website:

            “The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings are designed to provide concise and impartial information about the content in computer and video games so consumers, especially parents, can make an informed purchase decision.” 

      • “Bottom line is, children shouldn’t have access with D3.”

        That, however, doesn’t hold up in court. Nor do I think it holds up morally, either. If a parent thinks their 14-year-old is mature enough to handle images of sex and violence, it’s well within their right to let their child see M- or R-rated content. Not all children are incapable of handling that sort of imagery, and the parents are the ones who ought to make that decision.

        Also, as pong pointed out, the ESRB does nothing to prevent lawsuits. 

    3. Diablo 3 is rated M in US and 16+/18+ in the rest of the world, so if children will play and buy everything on RMAH its kinda their parents fault. Its easier to blame the company, not ignorance of parents that doesnt care what their childern are doing. I know that majority of players will be less than 18, but still this doesnt justify parents that lets f.e 10 year old play Diablo…

    4. Another fail thread by Flux. As the 2 above people pointed out, D3 is rated M, so why would kids even play the game. If they lose money by playing the AH, it’s the parents fault in the first place that they bought the game for their kids.

      • You know as well as I do that there are a whoooole lot of people who are under the age of 17 that will be playing D3.

      • how ignorant are you…do you really believe that being a rated M game stops people under the age of 17 from playing the game?

    5. How has this even become Appel’s fault? Seriously, raise your kid better, or don’t pay their phone bills. 

      Usually i don’t spew bile, but damn I get hot headed when I hear stories like this. Take some responsibility over your life and stop pushing laying in on the shoulders of others. 

         Yeah, i’d like to see you try to make a 7 year old to understand the value of money…
         If anything the parents where stupid for letting the kids play unsupervised when it came to a game where you can buy stuff with money…

        • The issue here, and the reason for the lawsuit, is that these games/apps advertise themselves as **FREE**, so at a glance a parent won’t think they have anything to worry about. Then, inside the game, the kid will have some option to “Get more Jellybeans!” (or whatever). They click, a bunch of fine print comes up that they don’t bother to read, and all of a sudden their parents are out by $1000.

          The question (that the courts will deal with) is whether or not these products are deceptive to consumers, and whether Apple does an adequate job of communicating how these apps can have other costs to the consumer. Most of these parents believed that the products – based on how these games present themselves – are free, so it’s not a question of the parents intentionally leaving their kids unsupervised with something they know might cost money, it’s a question of whether these parents were deceived in a way that warrants legal action.

    6. So, terrible parents are suing a company with their main argument against the company being that they are terrible parents.

      “Yes, judge, my child went ahead and bought 100$ worth of games on Apple device, using the credit card I gave him/her in a pathetic atempt to seem like a somewhat good parent by giving my children everything they ask for, as long as it is of material nature, because actually caring for my children and listening to them and involving myself in their life is too difficult. I, of course, wasn’t aware of this problems untill about a week later, bacause I haven’t spoken to my child in that time, because I am such a great parent.”

      To quote Einstein: “Two things are infinite, the universe and the human stupidity. And I am not certain about the universe.” It must be so great to be parent today. You don’t have to do anything for or, god forbid, with your children, you aren’t responsilbe for anything in your child’s life. Child is depressed? Video games have obviously made him like that. Child is agressive? Video games, rap and/or metal music. Child is unhappy? Clearly it hasn’t learned to love the lord yet, so more beating, um, “teachings” are due.  You don’t have to talk to your children either, because, of course, in this bad economy, I have to work so hard that I can completly ignore my child when I come home. And then sue some company when my neglected, possibly abused, ignored child does something bad. Possibly with my weapon. That I keep fully loaded in a place that is widly known around household, and that has easy access for children.

      God, I hate people sometimes. This is one of those times. 

      • You need to read a bit more closely. These kids aren’t buying $100 worth of “games”. They install a “free” game with in-game costs that aren’t advertised or communicated at the time of purchase. The kid doesn’t know that they’re spending money any more than the parent does, because the game was “free”.

        Tell me, when was the last time you read the entirety of your Apple terms of service in its entirety when you updated iTunes? 

    7. Easy.  Rated M game – Win 7 makes it easy to create a user account with Parental Controls below that age.  

      Just tell your kid to come get your permission before playing D3 and that you will kick their ass if they buy anything on RMAH.

      It’s called parenting. 

    8. If parents are stupid enough to let there kids have access to the parents bank account/paypal then its there own stupid fault if the kids start spending money.
      As other posters have pointed out there will be a many under 17’s playing, I personally I looking forward to kids playing with there parents money, I’ll be right there to supply them with all the gear they want.
      For a price :mrgreen:

    9. The game is M rated, so if the parents are doing their job, the game shouldn’t end up in kids below the M rating requirements in the first place.
      And honestly, kids using their parents’ credit cards to pay for in-game crap is like stealing 10 bucks from dady’s coat for candy…. If they can’t rase and educate their children properly, I don’t see why they should blame anyone else for their failure

      Also, there’s parental control for the accounts.

    10. To those crying, “but it’s rated M!”, l2law.  There are NO laws about video game ratings.  It’s a 100% voluntary thing, exactly like movie ratings.  Kids and young teens legally can and will get their hands on D3.

      Now, that said, it’s 100% illegal in the US for kids to have a CC under 18 years old and if parents are giving their card numbers over to kids to use, that’s their own damn stupidity.  That’s never going to fly in a court.

      The other option, of course, is to have money straight in Paypal or a bank account tied to Paypal for the RMAH.  That….is a little fuzzier.  Yes, Paypal won’t let you have an account under 18, but I’m not sure how closely they’re going to check.  No, banks won’t let you have your own account under 18, but many parents will open a small checking/savings account for a kid to start to save money.

      So if Paypal isn’t looking too closely to make sure everyone is of age, and the kid ties his/her joint checking account to Paypal and runs up a couple hundred dollars worth of in-game purchases between bank statements…..that can start to get a bit iffy.  Yes, parents can check the bank account on a weekly/daily basis and depending on the bank, possibly even get auto-notifications of any large withdrawals, but even that would be too late, as the kid would have already taken the money and thrown it at an in-game purchase, which blizz will contend is non-refundable.

      So, given that situation, there’s really little to nothing that a responsible parent could do if their kid goes against their orders and fucks up.  And that’s where blizz could get into trouble.

    11. The RMAH will be disaster for the kids parents maybe but that is their own fault. Parents don’t babysit kids these days, video games do. The RMAH just brings so many unwelcome issues ….

    12. Dear America,

      Stop handing in credit cards like candy.
      Take care of your children.

      Truly yours,


    13. Ok.  Seriously misinformed article.

      The case against apple is this…  When you install a free or paid app on iOS, you must enter your password to approve the purchase.  Following said purchase, the system lets you do in-game purchases up to 15 times without re-entering password.  This was a HUUUGE design flaw and was fixed in 2011.  

      Thus, it was parent ignorance.  Nothing more.  Not bad parenting or any other BS.   They’d install an app for their kid like the Smurf Village game, and the kids would go crazy playing the game not knowing they were spending real money.  Some devs took advantage of this big time.   

      So incredibly different from the RMAH it’s not even funny!!! 

      • Right. But note that in this case, currently you don’t need to enter a password to use the RMAH, you just need to be logged in.  Unlike those iPhone games, the RMAH is not directly in-game and there are no requests in-game for you to buy an item, but if the kid is playing the game he/she has access to spending the parents’ money.

        To everyone else, you may not like it but some parents will let their kids play D3. And yes, you’ll have to deal with them in multiplayer games 🙂  The whole issue could be solved if Blizzard starts to sell gift cards that can be used with the RMAH instead (which they know how to do – just put them right next to the WoW monthly cards in every store). That way parents can choose whether or not they want to have their credit card linked to the game.

        • Presumably it will require a password to add currency to your account. can’t just automatically charge your credit card. You need to add currency to it, and then you can purchase items in-game. As such, a child would only have access to spending that money if the parent left a big balance in their account, and in that case (which is totally unlike what’s happening with Apple) you might want to just chalk it up to lazy parenting.

      • Thank you for the clarification. I was already familiar with this story from elsewhere (because I pay attention to things in the world other than video games sometimes), but a lot of people commenting here seem to have no idea what they’re talking about in their comments. Hopefully they bother to read your comment.

    14. Its one thing to let your kids play diablo at a low low age i know i did im not guna lie but my parents werent bad people nor were they morons. These parents can’t possible blame BLIZZARD I mean really if you let your children have your credit cards your a idiot and 1. Shouldnt have have children 2. your idiots plain and simple… 3. Your kids could buy anything they wanted in the first place with ur credit cards as somone has already pointed out 4. These parents are just idiots plain and simple…

    15. This is not something that will be a big deal.  

      The problem with apple / facebook, is my understanding that a) the games were marketed as “free”, b) the games were marketed toward kids, c) the games allowed “1 click” purchases that had no verification of Credit Card or password requirements d) the purchases were sufficiently big (often 59.99 or more).  

      Diablo 3 doesn’t have any of those problems, and as long as it takes a log-in to the account, along with a password / cc number input to add funds to the account, blizzard should have absolutely zero problems like this.  It’s not being billed as free.  It’s not marketed / aimed toward kids.  And hopefully there will be some verification / password to add funds to the wallet.   

      • I think your over looking that you’d don’t need anything on our battlenet balance to shop on the RMAH.
        Your paypal accout will just take the cash  from your bank account if you choose pay via paypal” if there is not enough on your paypal account to cover the payment” I’m no expert on paypal but I’m almost sure thats how paypal works.

        This brings the debate to a whole new level, I hope you have to enter your bnet or paypal password when make a purchase via paypal, otherwise omg, some kid could empty the parents bank account.

        • PayPal isn’t handling in-game auctions at all. There is no “pay via paypal” option in-game. You have to (separately) increase your account funds, and then you can make in-game purchases using your balance.

            • That’s how it currently functions in the beta. You have an in-game balance, and to add to that balance you follow a link to your account (outside the game) which requires you to re-enter your password and re-authenticate.

          • No, when you purchase from the rmah you have to choose to pay via bnet balance or paypal.This is because your bnet account has a liimit, so you could not purchase a item greater than that amount $250 I think.

            Thus no item could be sold for more than $250 without a option to pay directly via paypal.

            There is a drop down box asking what payment method you want to use when bidding or buying out.

            • Do you have a link to info on this? That’s not the way it works currently in the beta, and the last blue post I read on the subject indicated that “We’ll go into more detail about the different options for making purchases in the currency-based auction house prior to launch.” I haven’t seen anything about a drop-down menu with PayPal as an option.

              If that is an option, I expect it will be one that comes with a lot of security options, so children “accidentally” wasting your money shouldn’t be a big concern. 

    16. A delightful comments thread (numerous actual LOLs) thanks to all of the non-parents and non-lawyers busily decreeing how the world *should* work, then walking away, confident in a mission accomplished.

      Life is messy, children are anarchic little monsters, and the law is an ass.

      • Not just that, but corporations, many game companies included, are greedy bastards who DO use deceitful means to get money and WILL mislead, exploit and trick you as much as they can get away with.
        They do, in fact, need to be held responsible for this by government regulations and the thread of lawsuits. 
        I have to add, though, that the SolveMedia ads required to post in this very comments thread are IMO a perfect example of corporate abuse, Flux ><

    17. @MRR
      Here you go: from the link

      Will I need to use Balance to make Diablo III auction-house purchases, or will other payment options be available?
      Diablo III players will be able to make purchases on the currency-based auction house directly (without using their Balance) via several popular payment methods, such as major credit cards.

    18. Fair enough, though I would bet they won’t do it without some form of confirmation. This is still a very far cry from the issues Apple is going through, however.

    19. I’m stuck on this situation..because its not like you can get a 30 day money back guarentee if the product isn’t what you wanted.

      Although I don’t think the premise of selling the goods is wrong, because it’s still work to get said items, there maybe something about a 30 day money back guarentee on an item may need to be put into effect. 

      • A “money-back guarantee” is normally in place for the risk of defective products. How is a Diablo 3 item, when you know exactly what stats it has, going to be “defective” or end up being not what you wanted?

    20. Yet another example of parents wanting to blame EVERYONE else for their ill-behaved and irresponsible children but themselves. *EVERY* parent that I know personally with children that have iPhones or iPod touches, or iPads is very well aware that they don’t let the children know the password to the iTunes account associated with the device.  This is just another situation of parents wanting the world to raise their kids, and not themselves.

      • You are aware that the password isn’t required to make purchases within a number of the apps involved in this lawsuit, so what you’re saying is pretty much irrelevant, right?

    21. He might not understand the value of money.  But I will make sure my kid understand the meaning of my leather belt. 

    22. Also different is that this games is clearly leveled at older people than Smurf Village or whatever. I mean, if your 14 year old abuses your credit card you can beat them bloody but can’t really say they didn’t know what they were doing. Basically kids are really stupid. Apple and app makes take advantage of that.

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