Class Cert Denied in Parents’ Google App Case

     SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) – Google’s multimillion-dollar settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over kids’ inadvertent in-app purchases without parental permission dooms class certification in a companion lawsuit, a federal judge ruled.
     Late last year, Google agreed to cough up no less than $19 million in refunds to customers whose children made in-app purchases without permission. The FTC had found that Google had been billing customers for inadvertent purchases made without passwords or any other form of authorization since 2011.
     Even after implementing a password requirement, the FTC said that Google never told parents that entering a password would open a 30-minute window during which children could make unlimited purchases – often without parents’ permission.
     Google has begun notifying its customers of the settlement, which requires the company to give refunds for all unauthorized in-app purchases made by children and to modify its billing practices to get express consent from customers before charging them for future purchases.
     But before the FTC intervened, New York resident Ilana Imber-Gluck slapped Google with a putative class action after discovering that one of her sons spent $70 to buy in-app currency for the 99-cent game “Run Jump Smash.” Other parents have since joined the federal case, which was filed this past March in San Jose.
     Earlier this year, Google argued that Imber-Gluck’s class couldn’t be certified because the FTC settlement “affords plaintiffs all of the relief to which they would have been entitled if they succeeded in the litigation.”
     But while Imber-Gluck countered that the FTC settlement didn’t give them punitive damages they would have been entitled to in a jury trial on California consumer-law claims, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte found on Friday that the agreement gave the class “nearly all, if not all, of the possible relief sought in the complaint.”
     Whyte also dismissed claims that Google’s notification and refund process was inadequate, cumbersome and therefore flawed.”These complaints appear unfounded given that Google has already refunded over $30 million to class members, and the settlement period continues through December 2015,” Whyte wrote. “Furthermore, it is unlikely that a class notice and claims process achieved through this litigation would be much different than that under the FTC settlement. Notice would likely involve email notice and an online claim form, just as in the FTC settlement. Plaintiffs’ suggestion that their notice would include a better email subject line than the FTC email is not sufficient to the superiority requirement.”

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