Mar 12, 2015 · 1 minute

Facebook must face the wrath of parents whose children racked up hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of charges on its service.

A federal judge in California has ruled that a lawsuit alleging that the company didn’t refund these parents after the charges were made can continue. The trial date was set for October 19.

One child is said to have incurred hundreds of dollars worth of charges after he connected a parent’s debit card to Facebook and purchased goods he thought were paid for with in-app currencies. (Nice excuse, kid.) They weren’t, much to his parents’ surprise.

The parents claim Facebook refused to refund these charges because all purchases made through its network were final. This suit is meant to change how the company handles such matters — especially when children make the purchases in question.

Facebook isn’t the first company targeted for refusing to refund purchases children made with a parent’s hard-earned money. Apple and Amazon have both faced similar complaints. (Those suits were brought against them by the FTC, though, not frustrated parents.)

This is a well-defined problem. As a Pando contributor reported January 2014:

Microsoft recently surveyed British parents on their children’s in-app purchases on smartphones and tablets. Of the 2,000 adults surveyed, 28% said that their little ones had made in-app purchases without their knowledge.

Eight-year-olds caused the most financial damage, spending an average of A$115 without permission. Much younger children are not left out of this equation, with 36% of parents admitting to paying for content bought accidentally by children aged four and under. Parents affected by this suit will not be able to receive a collective refund, given that everyone has had a unique experience, but the judge who's allowing the suit to continue has said that they can ask Facebook for refunds on an individual basis.


[illustration by Brad Jonas]