Facebook is being sued for allowing underage gamers to purchase Facebook credits.
The world's most popular social network is once again facing legal trouble, this time from a California woman who claims that the ability of underage gamers to purchase Facebook credits for use in its games violates her state's consumer protection laws. Facebook policy prohibits the purchase of credits by users under the age of 18 without parental consent but the plaintiff, Glynnis Bohannon, claims it's not doing enough to actually keep it from happening.
Bohannon filed the action on behalf of herself, her minor son and "all others similarly situated," and is seeking to represent "all parents and legal guardians whose minor children allegedly made unauthorized purchases of Facebook credits from the minor's account." The suit alleges a belief that there are "thousands of members of the Class" and while it doesn't demand a specific dollar figure in damages or restitution, Bohannon's personal damages are pegged at "several hundred dollars." The suit also notes that in 2011 alone, Facebook users between the ages of 13 and 17 purchased more than $5 million worth of credits.
Like all such lawsuits, this one will no doubt be the subject of much debate on where parental responsibility ends and corporate responsibility begins. There's no question that some and perhaps even most of these games are designed to hook players and get them spending money, but why do so many 14-year-olds seem to have such an easy time accessing their parents' credit cards? I can only guess what would have happened if I'd done such a thing at that age, but I strongly suspect that "apocalyptic" would be a mild way of describing it.
The action is similar to one filed against Apple, which alleges that the company manipulates kids into spending money on in-app items like Smurberries. That suit was recently given the go-ahead by a U.S. court.