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Class Sues ‘World of Warcraft’ Publisher

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Publishers of "World of Warcraft" and other blockbuster video games make millions by "deceptively and unfairly" charging customers for an after-sale security product to protect their private information from hackers, a class action claims in Federal Court.

Lead plaintiff Benjamin Bell sued Blizzard Entertainment, of Irvine, and its corporate parent, Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard.

Bell seeks class damages for consumer fraud, unjust enrichment, negligence, breach of contract and bailment. He claims that the same security problem, and after-market fix, occurs in defendants' games "Starcraft" and "Diablo."

Bell claims that game players have to pay $6.40 for a product called the Authenticator to protect their private information from hackers.

Sales of Authenticators, which come as a physical product or download, have brought in $26 million, according to the complaint.

Bell claims that Activision and Blizzard require gamers to use online accounts at the Battle.net website, which collects and stores customers' private information.

Blizzard puts the onus on gamers to buy additional products or tighten security on their devices, rather than making customer accounts more secure, Bell claims.

"Defendants negligently, deliberately, and/or recklessly fail to ensure that adequate, reasonable procedures safeguard the private information stored on this website. As a result of these acts, the private information of plaintiffs and class members has been compromised and/or stolen since at least 2007," according to the 33-page complaint.

"Most recently, on or about May 19, 2012, reports proliferated that class members' Battle.net accounts had suffered a security breach ('hack') at the hands of unknown parties ('hackers'), and on or about August 4, 2012, hackers massively breached Battle.net's security and acquired the private information of all of defendants' customers in the United States, as well as the remainder of North America, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia."

Though account details for millions of gamers were compromised or stolen, Bell says, neither Activision nor Blizzard took "the legally required steps to alert" gamers.

Bell seeks class damages and an injunction to bar the defendants from "tacking on" undisclosed costs after customers have bought games, and from requiring them to sign up for Battle.net accounts.

The class is represented by Hank Bates with Carney Williams Bates Pulliam & Bowman, of Little Rock, Ark.

Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

(Editors's note: In an email to Courthouse News on Nov. 10, after this story had been posted and archived, Blizzard responded that that lawsuit was "without merit" and included "patently false information."

"The suit's claim that we didn't properly notify players regarding the August 2012 security breach is not true," Blizzard said. "Not only did Blizzard act quickly to provide information to the public about the situation, we explained the actions we were taking and let players know how the incident affected them, including the fact that no names, credit card numbers, or other sensitive financial information was disclosed. You can read our letter to players and a comprehensive FAQ related to the situation on our website."

Blizzard saod that its The Battle.net Authenticator was "optional" and offered gamers "an added level of security against account-theft attempts that stem from sources such as phishing attacks, viruses packaged with seemingly harmless file downloads, and websites embedded with malicious code."

It added: "Many players have voiced strong approval for our security-related efforts. Blizzard deeply appreciates the outpouring of support it has received from its players related to the frivolous claims in this particular suit."

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