Yesterday, my four-year-old bought 'Until Dawn', the new PS4 survival horror game starring Hayden Panettiere. It cost me £50. She did this whilst I stood next to her, watching the same screen that she was watching, and I still had no idea it had happened until the email receipt turned up on my phone.
She's a good kid, my kid. She knows not to even touch the PS4 controller without a parent in the room (those things are expensive, and our wood floor is extremely unforgiving). Thus, I was probably laxer on password settings than I should have been. Nonetheless...
Here's what happened.
She was watching a cartoon on Cbeebies. My wife called her to the dinner table. Thinking the cartoon was on Netflix rather than live TV, my kid turned on the PS4 controller to pause the show. Pressed 'X' to pause. It did nothing. Pressed 'X' a couple more times.
"Daddy, it won't pause"
I glanced up, realised the cartoon was on Sky not Netflix and pressed pause on the Sky dibber rather than the PS4 controller. We went to dinner, having purchased 'Until Dawn' without ever flicking the TV off Cbeebies.
The receipt turned up on my phone, saying that I'd just spent £49.99, and I thought it was a phishing attempt. That was the point where I went to my PS4 to check whether a purchase had been made, and found the receipt screen sitting there.
I figured this wouldn't be a particularly big deal, given that my previous experience with accidentally buying a Kindle book on the Amazon app was resolved within about a minute (cancel purchase, job done, immediate refund). A quick internet search soon suggested differently; according to an awful lot of forums, people tended not to be able to get refunds for accidental purchases on Playstation network. The cancellation policy on the Sony site rather ominously states "Wallet top ups and purchases of digital content are final. This means that we will not credit your wallet, refund any wallet balance or transfer funds or content to another account, unless required to by local law."
Nonetheless, I was unwilling to accept my £50 loss without at least giving it a shot. After chatting with a very pleasant and helpful dude on the Playstation support line, I was told that my refund was a 'maybe' and I'd have to wait and see. Perhaps the mysterious gods of the refund department would smile upon me, considering the purchase had been made mere minutes earlier. But perhaps they wouldn't, seeing as I'd been enough of an idiot to leave the purchase settings on the default ones rather than changing them to 'require password at checkout'.
Nearly twenty years previously, I'd had to get a refund for a copy of 'Resident Evil'on the PS1. I'd ended up with two copies due to a Christmas present from someone who clearly knew my taste in games very well but overestimated my willpower in terms of resisting the urge to buy the game for myself. I queued up in HMV, presented the duplicate and got a refund. Back in those days it was harder for the customer to screw up (you've got to do a lot more than press a button a few times in order to purchase a game in a shop), but the system was still somehow much more forgiving if you managed it.
Now, the best part of two decades later, progress has massively increased the chances of buying a game by accident and massively decreased the customer's chances of getting a refund. I was told that there was no way of cancelling the purchase (despite the fact that the game hadn't been downloaded, which is more or less the same as me still being standing at the counter in HMV with the thing still in shrink wrap) and therefore I couldn't be sure of a refund. I had to hope that the kind, benevolent souls at Playstation would take pity on me, rather than assuming that concepts of fair trading or consumer law would protect me.
I still haven't heard at this point. I still don't know whether I'll get a refund or not. At least my kid was thoughtful enough to accidentally purchase a game that I do actually quite fancy playing, (it looks pretty cool), but that's not really the point.
My kid spent £50 by turning the controller (and thus the console) on and clicking the 'X' button half a dozen times.
Thank God she's never learnt to play any button mashers; we could have lost the bloody house.
NOTE: Since writing this, Sony has given me the £50 back as store credit. Store credit isn't, of course, as useful as money. The only thing in the store that I'd consider spending fifty quid on is 'Until Dawn'. Bugger again.