MSE News

'Our son spent over £1,000 online on his Xbox' – how to avoid an unexpected bill

A couple who were stunned to find their son had spent over £1,000 in 123 different transactions on his Xbox One are warning other parents to make sure they have set up spending controls.

The couple's 12-year-old son spent £1,097 without his parents' knowledge between December 2018 and February this year, on various Xbox games including Call of Duty, FIFA 19 and Fortnite, with the bulk of the spending being in February.

He was later diagnosed with ADHD – which has symptoms of impulsivity and inattention.

While the couple, who are from Surrey, bought the games for their son, the spending he made was on in-game add-ons, for items such as costumes and characters.

While admitting they wish they'd put restrictions on spending, the couple believe the Xbox should have automatic spending restrictions built in to it when bought, that you have to turn off.

They didn't initially get a response from parent company Microsoft when they submitted a spreadsheet itemising each of the charges, and evidence of their son's ADHD, to ask for a refund in July.

In early August, they contacted, and in turn we got in touch with Microsoft to ask about their complaint. It has now refunded the couple after an investigation, but be aware that this might not always be the case, and we've heard of some situations in the past when people haven't got their money back.

See below for how to keep tabs on what your child's spending – and for more MoneySaving gaming help, see our Xbox One Deals.

'It's been a difficult time for us'

Speaking about their son's spending, the couple said: "It's been a very difficult time for us. With all the best will in the world, we know we should have put spending restrictions on, but you don't always do it.

"There should be restrictions in place and it should be that you have to turn this off, rather than the other way around.

"There were over 100 transactions that our son made, and we listed them all to apply for a refund – it was over £1,000.

"We had to take him into town and show him that we were taking the money out of his savings account – money that's there for him when he's older."

How to stop your child spending cash on their Xbox

If you have card details saved on to your Xbox, it's important to make sure your child can't use your card within a game without your authorisation.

Some of the ways to do this on the Xbox One – the latest version of the Xbox – are as follows:

Create a new 'passkey', which is required whenever purchases are made. To do this, go to the Microsoft Store and then:

  • Go to Settings > All Settings > Accounts > Sign-in, security & passkey.
  • Select 'Change my sign-in & security preferences'.
  • Scroll right and choose 'Customize'.
  • Scroll right and choose 'Ask for my passkey to make purchases'.
  • Select 'Passkey required'.

Make a separate account for your child which isn't linked to your card details.

  • Press the Xbox button on your controller to open the guide.
  • Scrolling up to the account area and selecting 'Add new'. Ensure you don't add payment details to this account.

A full list of solutions can be found on the Microsoft website.

You can also find details on how to block spending on the Playstation 4 and iPad/iPhone.

My child has made unauthorised purchases – what can I do?

If your child does make an unauthorised purchase and you haven't followed the instructions above, it's not guaranteed that you'll get your cash back.

However, as Microsoft reviews claims on a case-by-case basis and says it may consider refunds if the purchases were made without parental permission, it is worth contacting Xbox's support team.

It would be helpful to have details of the spending, and any mitigating circumstances that may have led to your child making purchases without permission.

What does Microsoft say?

A Microsoft spokesperson said: "We have family settings and tools available to give parents the power to block their children from making online purchases.

"While we don't comment on specific cases, we can confirm that we review all reports, and in cases where we our investigation confirms that purchases were made by a minor without parental permission, we may decide that a one-time refund is appropriate."

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!