Facebook to face U.S. class action over children's online purchases

Wed Mar 11, 2015 3:30pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A federal judge said Facebook Inc must face a nationwide class-action lawsuit seeking to force the social media company to provide refunds when children spend their parents' money on its website without permission.

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose, California on Tuesday said a class of plaintiffs estimated in the hundreds of thousands may press their claim that Facebook should change how it handles online transactions by minors.

The judge also said the plaintiffs could not pursue refunds as a group under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, because any refunds would vary from case to case, but could still seek individual refunds. She set an Oct. 19 trial date.

Facebook said it believes the lawsuit lacks merit, and said it will defend itself vigorously.

The April 2012 lawsuit said Facebook let children use their parents' credit and debit cards to buy the virtual currency Facebook Credits, and violated California law by refusing refunds under its "all sales are final" policy when the parents complained.

In opposing class certification, Facebook said the plaintiffs' claims were too disparate, and an injunction would not address them.

But Freeman said state law protects parents and their children when those children "occasionally use their lack of judgment" and buy things they should not.

"Though some minors undoubtedly may wish to continue making purchases through credit or debit cards they do not have permission to use, such a desire cannot prevent the named plaintiffs from bringing suit to demand that Facebook's policies comply with the law," she wrote.   Continued...

 
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, delivers a keynote address at the company's annual conference in San Francisco, California July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Kimberly White