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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Child Class Certified|Against Facebook

SAN JOSE (CN) - A federal judge certified a class of children who want to void purchases they made on Facebook using their parents' credit cards, but denied the minors' claims for restitution.

Lead plaintiff I.B. and his respective mother, claim that Facebook's policy of finalizing all purchases made through its website violates the California Family Code, which voids a contract if the minor "make[s] a contract relating to any personal property not in the immediate control of the minor," and permits a minor to disaffirm any contract "before majority or within a reasonable time afterwards."

After using his mother's credit card to buy Facebook credits for an online game, I.B. says, he did not know the site would store the credit-card information. He claims he thought his subsequent several hundred dollars' worth of game purchases were being made with "virtual currency."

Co-plaintiff J.W. took his parents' debit card without permission and used it to buy more than $1,000 worth of Facebook credits.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in December 2013 that the minors, but not their parents, could fight Facebook for refunds.

According to U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman's March 10 ruling to certify the class, the plaintiffs claim that Facebook "routinely refuses requests by children and their parents and legal guardians to provide refunds for transactions that are subject to disaffirmance under California law."

Freeman ruled that the plaintiffs have standing to seek declaratory and injunctive relief, and certified a class defined as "all Facebook users who are or were minor children according to Facebook's own records for the four years preceding the date on which the original complaint was filed through the date on which a class is certified."

She also certified "a subclass of minors from whose Facebook accounts Facebook credits were purchased."

But the judge sided with Facebook on the plaintiffs' claims for restitution and monetary relief, since "the amount of monetary damages due each class member, if any, would be dependent on the individual circumstances of each class member, and thus cannot be determined formulaically."

The class seeks declaratory relief that Facebook's practices are unlawful and an injunction requiring it to change its practices on transactions with minors.

The plaintiffs are represented by John Parker, with Kershaw Cutter in Sacramento. Facebook is represented by Whitty Somvichian, with Cooley LLP in San Francisco.

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