Facebook Will Refund App Purchases Made By Minors Without Parents’ Knowledge

Facebook and U.S. DollarIf you’re a parent with a tech-savvy kid, you know the costs that children can rack up in online games without your knowledge. Thankfully, a California court ruled this week that Facebook must refund parents for app and game purchases made by minors with the now-defunct Facebook Credits currency.

The ruling, which was the result of a 2012 class action lawsuit from two children and their parents, will pay back surprised parents for the money their children spent in games like Bejeweled and Farmville. Facebook tried to argue that the children received the goods they paid for and thus refunds weren’t required, but the court disagreed. Because Facebook Credits were linked to an adult’s credit or debit card, children could run up huge bills with just the click of a button.

“It’s not unheard of to talk to parents who have lost $1,000 or $2,000,” said lawyer and Harvard associate professor Ben Edelman. “I’m thrilled that Facebook will give that money back — but it would have been even better if they’d given it back earlier or not taken it in the first place.”

Facebook said that minors needed to obtain their parents’ permission before making purchases like these on the site, but there was no system for proving that they did. Also, many minors lie about their age to join Facebook in the first place, so the site’s entire system for dealing with young users is potentially flawed.