Class Action Lawsuit Against Fortnite to Proceed After Judge's Ruling
It is every parent's nightmare that they will get stuck with a massive bill when their child uses their mobile device. Many kids simply do not know that things cost money when they make purchases in an app or download other apps. Then, their parents are hit with the fallout when they get a shock bill. The problem is when developers make it too easy for children to incur huge bills. Now, parents are filing a class action lawsuit against the maker of Fortnite, claiming that their children were lured into inadvertently spending large amounts of money online.
One app that encourages users to make in-app purchases is Fortnite. Users purchase V-Bucks that open up various experiences in the game. The costs of these V-Bucks can add up quickly. When children are playing the game, there is even more of a danger of large unexpected bills.
A Child Ran Up a Huge Tab Playing Fortnite and the Company Would Not Refund the Money
A federal judge in California recently kept a lawsuit alive against Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite. The lawsuit was filed by one child's mother, who claims that the company took advantage of the fact that children had no idea that in-game currency equated to money and that it had a real cost. According to the plaintiff, there is no explanation of how V-Bucks relate to real-life money. Moreover, the plaintiffs allege that the entire setup of the game is intended to encourage people to spend as much as possible without regard for the consequences. When children are playing the game, this is even more dangerous.
The plaintiff's son used both gift card and his mother's credit card to make in-game purchases. The original lawsuit brought a multitude of claims against Epic Games. However, the judge in the case dismissed all but one of the claims. Specifically, the lawsuit was allowed to proceed on the grounds that a minor may have the ability to back out of a purported contract. In other words, minors would not be responsible for any contract that they sign. Epic filed a request for reconsideration of the judge's refusal to dismiss the case in its entirety, and the judge kept the lawsuit alive.
The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint after most of the case was dismissed in January. The new ground of complaint was negligent misrepresentation. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the child had no way of knowing that any purchases in the app were not refundable. Specifically, the allegation is that the font of the type that describes the non-refundable policy is so small as to be inconspicuous. The judge decided that the negligent misrepresentation ground could proceed through to trial. However, the judge upheld the previous dismissal of all of the other claims, including those that argued that Epic Games violated California's consumer protection laws.
Epic Games Is Alleged to Prey on Minors
Most apps will usually give parents some kind of relief when children run up a large bill without the parents' knowledge. However, Epic Games is very stringent and will usually hold to its no refunds policy. The child's story is no different from many other horror stories that parents have told when their children play Fortnite. The plaintiffs have alleged that Fortnite's creators prey on minors and their inability to make sound judgements. Whatever the strategy, Fortnite is an immensely profitable game, racking up billions for its creators. The initial lawsuit claimed that Fortnite makes over $1 billion just from in-app purchases.
However, Fortnite has no protections that can block a minor from running up a large tab. There are no parental controls like there would be on other apps. The only way that parents know that their children have been making large purchases is when they get their bill.
For all the profits that they make, the developers of Fortnite have been embroiled in seemingly endless litigation. In 2018, Epic Games was hit with a class action lawsuit when a data breach compromised its players' information. Then, Fortnite filed a lawsuit against a 14-year who allegedly sold ways to cheat in the game. Now, Fortnite is suing both Apple and Google for blocking it from their platforms in a dispute over the commissions that the two companies take from app sales. Yet, Fortnite still continues to be a cash cow for its creators notwithstanding all of the litigation.
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