Beijing mum takes livestreaming platform to court to get back $133,760 in 'virtual gifts' by teen daughter

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A mother in Beijing has demanded that a popular livestreaming platform refund the 657,000 yuan (S$133,760.04) that her teenage daughter spent lavishing handsome hosts with "virtual gifts".

The woman, identified only as Ms Liu, lost a lawsuit to recover the money in September, but has lodged an appeal with the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People's Court.

A publicity official said on Monday (Dec 18) that the court accepted Ms Liu's appeal about two weeks ago and that the case is still pending.

Ms Liu said her 16-year-old daughter, Ms Xiao Ya, used tuition money and Ms Liu's bank account while studying in Canada to reward hosts on Inke, a livestreaming app operated by Beijing MeeLive Network Technology.

The girl sent digital gifts of money to show affection to her favourite hosts, Ms Liu said, mostly young, fashionable men who livestream their daily lives, music and video gaming.

The cheapest gifts, such as a flower, cost just 0.1 yuan, while the most expensive - a "paradise island" - costs about 3,350 yuan.

"I was shocked when I found out my daughter had blown hundreds of thousands of yuan online," Ms Liu, a senior corporate executive, told Legal Mirror. "But my daughter told me: So what? Everyone else is doing it; even my classmate's dad is in on the fun."

Ms Liu said Ms Xiao Ya had stolen her ID and bank account number. She said her daughter is an introvert and had a difficult time adjusting to life in Canada.

But the outlandish gifting spree was so far over the top that Ms Liu decided to take Beijing MeeLive to court to recover the money.

During the original hearing, the company's lawyer argued that Ms Xiao Ya's account and all of its purchases were registered under Ms Liu's name. Moreover, most of the purchases were done overseas, making tracing evidence difficult.

A representative from Inke told China Daily on Monday that protecting underage users has always been a priority and the company has been pushing real-name registration and face recognition systems to reduce overspending by children.

At the same time, Inke will implement a manual supervision and evaluation system that can  within a certain time period detect overspending, further limiting the potential for this, the representative said.

The livestreaming industry had 350 million users and was worth around US$3 billion (S$4.04 billion) in 2016, according to Credit Suisse, a global banking and financial services provider.

However, several cases of teenagers overspending on platforms have been reported this year.

On Friday, a 12-year-old girl from Chongqing blew 14,000 yuan in eight days on video game streamers using her mother's money.

Her mother earns 2,000 yuan a month, Chongqing Morning News reported.