Kids Empty Parents’ Bank Account After Three-Week Loot Box Binge

Loot boxes are back in the media spotlight following a report by the BBC that details how children spent £550 on the in-game add-ons.

FIFA loot boxes

Loot boxes are back in the spotlight after a family spent £550 on FIFA upgrades. (Image: fifplay.com)

Published on July 9, the article doesn’t name the children but explains how they got caught up in an online spending spree.

Opening Pandora’s Loot Boxes

By authorising an £8 transaction on EA’s FIFA for the Nintendo Switch, Thomas Carter unwittingly opened Pandora’s box. Although the admits he didn’t protect his Nintendo account with a PIN number, Carter never expected his children to notch up a £550 bill.

With receipts going to an old email account, the father didn’t notice what was happening for three weeks. The incident eventually came to light when the family’s debit card was declined because of insufficient runs.

It transpired that the children had watched Carter complete the initial purchase and simply copied his actions. The incident itself was enough to make the headlines but it was the issue of loot boxes and gambling that made the story.

In the FIFA game series, players can purchase the in-game add-ons in an effort to bolster their team. As with other loot boxes, the contents remain a mystery until they’ve been paid for.

For Mr. Carter’s children (all under the age of ten), their aim was simple: win a star player. However, with the value of each prize varying from box-to-box, picking up a top-rated player was never guaranteed.

You pay £40 for the game, which is a lot of money in itself, but then the only way to get a great team is essentially by gambling. They spent £550 and they still never got their favourite player, Lionel Messi,” Carter told the BBC.

When asked to comment, EA directed the BBC to a breakdown of its spending controls. However, even with certain controls in place, the story will likely reignite a national debate.

Lid Won’t Close on Gambling Debate

Just a week before the latest story broke, UK Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James said loot boxes weren’t gambling.

Although she acknowledged they could be a gateway to it, she said the boxes themselves weren’t a form of gambling.

That conclusion echoes the one reached by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) back in 2017.

Because the contents of each box doesn’t have any transferrable value in the real world, it doesn’t fall under the regulator’s definition of gambling. To put it another way, even though the prize is random, it can’t be used like real money.

Since clarifying its position, the UKGC has vowed to investigate the nature of loot boxes further. However, with the in-game add-ons worth £32 billion and children no older than ten spending hundreds on them, the latest incident may force it to act sooner rather than later.

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