underage and the legality of charging for porn

I received a bill today for $102. for access to an adult website (it was through a dialer that connects directly to the site) I was not home at the time and neither was my husband. That leaves my 15 year old responsible. We searched the hard drive and were able to conclude that yes, the site was indeed accessed and it was not a mistake in billing. So I was wondering do I have any legal recourse not to pay this bill due to the fact that it was ordered by an underage child? I was able to read the agreement, and it keeps stating that by clicking you agree that you are 18.

Here’s a Benjamin F. Dover column dealing with just this topic (registration might be required, I can’t remember)

FWIW, found this.

Is it possible your son thought he was signing up for a “free trial membership”?

Also, this.
http://www.law.washington.edu/lct/genie/answers.html#MasqueradingMinor

Any of that help?

Thank you for the quick responses. I tried google, but I was stumped over which keywords to enter.

Certainly your son should get a good talking to, not because he accesed a porn site, but because he ran up a bill.

But ask yourself this: if he made $102 worth of conventional long distance phone calls from your phone, would you say you are not responsible for the charge? Is there any difference?

(I’m assuming he contacted a site that bills thru the phone company, not a credit card, and that the site stated plainly what the charge would be. A 15-year-old should be sufficiently cognisant of the value of money to handle this.)

Charging for long-distance phone calls (a service the phone companies provide) isn’t illegal. Selling pornography to minors is.

Also, a lot of dialers install themselves without authorization. Chances are the phone company will waive the fees this once. Then set your security level to high on IE.

We did not get a bill through the phone company (but because it is a long distance call we will be charged for that as well) It was billed through a company called Alyon Technologies.

The boy has been lucky so far because he was not home when I found this bill in yesterday’s mail, but rest assured I am going to have a talking to him.I am more mad at the bill and the fact that there was no age verification checking on the site. While I don’t like the idea of him surfing porn sites I try to be realistic.He’s a normal 15 year old boy. He is going to look at porn.I monitor our internet access and have the computer in a central location in our home.I can not babysit him 24 hours a day, and he is computer savy enough to get around any monitoring software( but obviously not savy enough to check if he’s going to be billed)

This is my major complaint.I was able to find I file on my hard drive that had the access to this site still on it.It only has a single checkbox asking to verify if you are 18 or older.I feel there is a big difference between a 15 year old gaing access to this site versus a 9 year old.Either age could get to this site with out much of a problem.It install a dialer on your computer.It dials the site and charges you for how long you access the site.

If its a credit card bill, I would dispute it with the CC company.

Judge Judy on tv often handles cases like this about minors under 18 & contracts & she always rules–as far as I have seen, that they can’t do contracts. Maybe Bricker can come in & clarify this for us.

"I am more mad at the bill and the fact that there was no age verification checking on the site. While I don’t like the idea of him surfing porn sites I try to be realistic.He’s a normal 15 year old boy. He is going to look at porn."

Shoot me down for this, but you really should have a talk with him about that: There is so much free porn floating around the internet and a clever 15 year old should be able to find that, instead of going to pay sites :wink:

Well, as I dimly recall it, the general rule is that a contract entered into by a minor is voidable, unless it’s for necessities of life. And I think any contract that exists for a criminal purpose or effect is probably void, or voidable, as a matter of public policy. But there are probably a few hundred exceptions and statutory changes, and since my experience is criminal, not civil law, I’m probably not the best person to ask about the validity and enforeability of a contract with a minor to supply porn. Nor do I know if the parents of a minor are liable under a contract or a tort theory for the wilful miscodnuct of their child.

If you’d like a breakdown of what state and federal criminal laws were potentially broken by providing porn to a minor, though, let me know. :slight_smile:

  • Rick

[UPDATE] After a good talking to last night I found out my son was not home that day,he was bowling with his friends.After checking out the system event viewer under computer management (I’m running XP Pro) I’ve discoved my 12 year old daughter was logged on at the time.:eek: I guess I should have checked there first. I taked to her and she denies knowing anything.Is she telling the truth? I don’t know.After hearing about the dialers that install themselves I wonder if I should give her the benifit of the doubt.On the other hand the dialer was uninstalled after being used.Life was so much easier when they were in diapers.[/UPDATE]

Yes, they can uninstall themselves also. Pretty sleazy way of making a buck. They will also silence a modem if you normally have sound so you don’t know what it’s doing.

I agree with you. You can’t watch your children 24 hours/day. But it sounds as if you’ve no or a very weak firewall (the one included in XP is weak). There are several FREE firewalls; I’m partial to Zonealarm. If you don’t normally make international calls, you may want to discuss blocking them with your phone company.

I was certainly looking at porn when I was 12. But how embarrasing to be found out at that age!

Did you try looking in the temp files?

From the POV of a mother of a 12-year-old girl:

I would ignore the “porn” aspect of it and focus on the “this might cost us some serious money so we need to know exactly what you clicked on before I go mano-a-mano with the credit card company” aspect of it, and you’re more likely to get some help from her. Make her understand that it’s not a Big Deal to you that she saw some naked people, you just wanna know what she clicked, because if they ARE installing and uninstalling porn dialers on your computer by themselves, that’s actionable and they should be stopped, and she’d be helping other people by helping you.

And yes, Twelves are curious about sex, too. And we all know how easy it is to get onto porn websites from the most innocent Google searches. She might have been looking for information on “breasts” and ended up at the porn site that turns up as Hit #5 on Google.

I would imagine that “underage porn” would give you a fair number of responses.

:wink: