Facebook Sued Over Kids' Use Of Game Currency

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Yesterday we brought you a story about a suit against Apple concerning the ability of children to run up huge bills without their parents' knowledge using the in-app purchase model present in many iOS apps. The suit was originally filed in 2011, and the judge in the case ruled yeseterday that it could proceed to court, despite Apple's objections.

Now it looks like Apple isn't the only company in trouble for making it too easy for kids to spend their parents' money. Earlier this week Glynnis Bohannon of California filed suit in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California against Facebook over charges accrued when her teenage child purchased "several hundred dollars" worth of Facebook credits for use in games.

The complaint, which can be read here, seeks an injunction against Facebook, attorney fees, and damages in the neighborhood of $5 million. The suit seeks class action status. The plaintiffs claim that there are potentially thousands of members of the class, and seeks "to represent all parents and legal guardians whose minor children allegedly made unauthorized purchase of Facebook Credits from the minor's account."

Many games on Facebook work using the same basic model as apps with in-app purchases on Facebook: they require players to pay real money to unlock functionality or accessories or currency within the game. Unfortunately for both Apple and Facebook, these games are often particularly addictive to children and teenagers. Without sufficient safeguards in place to keep kids from making unauthorized purchases, it's all too easy to rack up bills in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Apple has made changes that prevent kids from spending real money without their parents' consent, but their class action lawsuit will proceed. Though Facebook will no doubt be instituting safeguards of its own soon, it's likely that this suit will continue as well, barring a settlement.

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