Mobile game makers fined over cyber cash refunds

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Mobile game makers fined over cyber cash refunds

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) slapped 16 mobile game companies with fines of 4 million won ($3,400) each yesterday for lying to their customers by claiming that the players’ cyber cash was not refundable.

The companies include Nexon Korea, known for its online game Maple Story and KartRider, as well as Gamevil, Electronic Arts Korea and NHN.

Players can be refunded for any leftover cyber cash they may have within seven days of purchasing it according to the local electronic commerce law, the FTC said.

But the game companies falsely notified users that the money was non-refundable.

“By imposing fines on these companies we expect to raise awareness of the law among consumers,” said Sung Kyoung-je of the FTC’s e-commerce division.

The FTC received 2,443 official complaints from angry gamers on this issue in the first quarter, more than triple the number filed in the same period of 2011. Many of the irate parties claimed it was their children who made the purchases while playing on their parents’ phones.

“While adults are aware of their commercial decisions, young children tend to just click on the cute characters they see on the screen,” said Sung.

“The parents receive notifications later that they have been charged for a purchase they were unaware of.”

One customer said his 8-year-old son clicked on an image of a pool of big fish and the company charged him 200,000 won some 20 minutes later, according to the FTC.

Another complained that 150,000 won was deducted from his account after his 4-year-old daughter played a mobile game.

“We even played the games ourselves to see how easy it is for children to accidentally approve transactions and found it was often as simple as just pressing one button,” said Sung.

The companies had already refunded 170 million won in total to customers who made “strong” requests, he added.

Meanwhile, the commission recently searched Blizzard Entertainment’s office in Cheongdam, southern Seoul. The move came after a surge in complaints from users who said they were denied refunds for recently released Diablo III even though crashed servers had left them unable to play it.

The FTC is now reviewing what went wrong. If it discovers any evidence of unfair trade activities, it will order the company to fix the problems and impose fines.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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