Google waived a €100,000 bill for a 12-year-old kid who mistakenly advertised his band with AdWords

Just this once.
Just this once.
Image: Reuters/Mark Blinch
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Becoming internet-famous may seem quick and easy, but it certainly doesn’t come cheap.

José Javier, a 12-year-old trumpet player in Spain, decided to promote his band, Los Salerosos, through his YouTube channel—and found himself stuck with a €100,000 ($112,000) bill from Google, El País reported (link in Spanish). The schoolboy had signed up for Google AdWords, thinking that he would earn money every time someone clicked on his ad (as users can with Google’s AdSense program). Little did he know that it is the ad’s creator who foots the bill under AdWords’ “pay-per-user” program, which gives publishers the means to pay for priority placements of ads on the site.

It’s apparently a common enough confusion that Google has a page explaining the difference between AdWords and AdSense. For the aspiring YouTube star from Valencia’s Torrevieja region, this was an expensive mistake: It only took a couple of months, mid-August to early October, to rack up the astronomical bill. His mother, Inma Quesada, was caught off guard when the family’s bank raised red flags about a €19,700 charge from Google in early September. Javier’s parents put a block on the account, but that didn’t stop the search engine giant from billing another €78,000.

Quesada told El País that Javier was able to set up the Google AdWords account by giving just the name and account number of the savings account his family had set up for future costs like his driving license.

Luckily for the young Spaniard, Google investigated the curious case after reports surfaced in the local media. Recognizing his youthful mistake, they wrote off the entire amount on Wednesday (Oct. 5).

“We have not received any monies from this user and we are canceling the outstanding AdWords balance,” a Google spokesperson told Quartz. AdWords, like many of the company’s online services, has age limits restricting its use, but the company made a one-off concession this time to cancel the bill. The spokesperson recommended that families look to Google’s Safety Center page for families to prevent their kids from making such errors.