Consumer Law

What's in a Game? Beware of Web of Video Games

Related Item

You may be unhappy with the violence in video and online games marketed to your kids. According to the Supreme Court, you're on your own in minding what games your kids play. It held a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to kids unconstitutional.

Justice Scalia found no reason to treat these games differently from other types of communication. He recited a list of books, even children's books, which were loaded with violence. The First Amendment would not allow making those illegal to sell. The same protection applies to violent video and online games, he said.

Original Article

The popular game Xbox system from Microsoft is a favorite for youth and adults around the globe. But over time, consumers have become aggravated from the confusing way that points are purchased and calculated. One customer, an attorney, filed suit against Microsoft claiming he was cheated by the Xbox points purchasing system, and the system overcharges customers.

Xbox Suit

The video game system "Xbox," which operates with its own computer console and uses purchased games, has drawn outrage from some customers who find the point system used to be difficult and costly.

One customer got so frustrated with the system, operated by computer giant Microsoft, he filed suit against Microsoft claiming the company engaged in fraudulent handling of his account, and overcharged him and other customers for products they never received.

The customer, Samuel Lassoff, says the point system used by Microsoft for the Xbox is filled with problems and errors. Point values are set so arbitrarily that consumers will in all cases have leftover points they don't need or use.

Another danger encountered by many users is hackers stealing their Xbox account balances, and sometimes even their identities on the game. Microsoft has received a boatload of complaints about the point system and is supposedly going to change to a cash system, rather than points. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.

Protect Your Credit Card Number

Many a parent has done battle with the Xbox customer service team over the never-ending cycle of charges to their credit card. Customer service routes customers in an endless, frustrating loop from one far-off voice to another. With the result ending without resolution or satisfaction.

The lesson to be learned? Don't give out your credit card number, as you may never regain control of it. And the charges will be small, $6.95 or $9.95 per month, so many customers will just let it go thinking their child is using the system.

But these charges add up over months, and are often never authorized by the parents. Some even occur either after you’ve cancelled the service or when you’ve never bought any services at all.

Customer service says you gave them permission to charge your credit card way back when. And that as long as somebody in your household has been playing the game, you have to pay for it.

The best thing to do is to write or fax your credit card company and dispute these charges. Instruct that company not to accept any further charges from Microsoft or Xbox. You may even have to go so far as to cancel your credit card and get a new credit card number.

Be Cautious of Inappropriate Games

Parent groups are up in arms about a web game called "My Minx" that encourages young teen and pre-teen girls to buy condoms and to take "anti-baby pills." The games creator, Chris Evans of the British company Blighty Arts, protests that people don't have their facts straight. He says nothing on his game would offend children who happen to end up there.

Blighty Arts has been hammered for its "Miss Bimbo" game which lets young girls give their virtual characters breast augmentation and diet pills. In the My Minx game, kids can buy condoms, lingerie, and "anti-baby pills," so long as they have a PayPal account. Evans calls the game "a stylish game for stylish ladies," and says that pre-teens wouldn't be interested in it.

Video and computer games have ratings just like movies that can help you understand what games your child is playing and if they’re appropriate for them. As always, keep tabs on what your pre-teen and teens are finding on the web, and even consider purchasing filters to keep age-inappropriate sites out of view.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Microsoft charged my credit card over $1,000 for games my child didn’t play. Can I get my money back?
  • Can I stop the sellers of inappropriate video games from selling them? Or at least from selling them to children under a certain age?
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