Technology

VTech hack: Parents complain of Christmas disappointment

Vtech Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some parents said Christmas had been ruined

Parents have expressed anger after they found the VTech toys their children were given for Christmas were not fully functioning.

VTech was hacked in November, exposing millions of accounts.

In response, the firm took some essential services offline, meaning products could not be registered on Christmas Day.

While some people were critical, others said VTech was doing its best to deal with a difficult situation.

Many parents whose children received VTech toys for Christmas posted messages on the company's Facebook account.

Some said that VTech should have withdrawn their toys from sale when it became clear their systems would not be online when children received their gifts.

"You've known about this cyber-attack since November, and continued to sell your products in the run-up to Christmas, in full knowledge of the fact that these devices wouldn't be functional at Christmas. What sort of company are you running?" wrote Garrett Murphy, whose Facebook page says he lives in Sligo, in Ireland.

'Fuming'

Others said their children were upset. Sharon Mcgee wrote: To say I'm fuming is an under statement! I've a crying 3 year old all day Santa brought him a broken gift!"

She added: "I would not mind but when buying this it was the most expensive one in the store but I thought you are paying for better quality!" She said she would return the toy and never buy another from VTech.

Another customer, Peter Box, whose Facebook profile says he lives in Wakefield, in West Yorkshire, wrote that his children had been upset and that it was "extremely poor customer service by vtech, to intentionally sell a product that they know doesn't work for Christmas".

VTech told customers on Christmas Eve that Learning Lodge, the company's app store, with which customers need to register, would be down. It had also taken down other sites in the immediate aftermath of the hack, while it conducted a "thorough security assessment".

The firm provided a temporary workaround for Christmas that would enable some, but not all functions and gave customers some free games as recompense. But Mr Box - and others - said the warnings were insufficient.

Image copyright VTech
Image caption VTech warned customers on Christmas Eve that there would be an issue the following day

Morgan Calhoun wrote: "Knowing the Learning Lodge has been down for a while, you chose to keep these products on the shelves anyway, for your own profit, not at all concerned about what you were selling to consumers."

She said her two children played with VTech toys regularly, but vowed not to buy any more. "You should have taken your products off shelves and taken the hit financially instead of inconveniencing and disappointing numerous consumers and their children."

VTech was hacked on 14 November last year. It said it first learned of the attack from a journalist, who emailed the firm 11 days afterwards. People using its Learning Lodge, Kid Connect and PlanetVTech services were affected, it said.

Pictures of customers' children, as well as their addresses were exposed, according to some, unconfirmed reports.

In an update released on 29 December, the firm said it was still investigating how the hacker got into its system. Earlier that month, a 21-year-old man was arrested in Berkshire by police investigating the hack.

'Trying to get it sorted'

One customer defended VTech, saying that it was in an "unfortunate situation", but gave the firm credit because it was "trying to get it sorted".

Andrew O'Duffy, whose Facebook profile says he comes from Dublin, Ireland, wrote: "Santy brought an Innotab Max pink for my daughter. Obviously we can't get it registered right now but we logged in via the guest a/c and connected via WiFi to try it out. One delighted child and able to watch vids, play games etc. Even happier that there were the extra games after the firmware update."

He said he understood that the problems were "frustrating and upsetting". But, he wrote: "Vtech are also victims crippled by the actions of some scumbags compromising their system." He added that he did not work for Vtech but did "work in a similar field".

VTech declined to comment, beyond its Christmas Eve Facebook post.

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