Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is the defendant in a proposed class action filed by a California parent who alleges the PlayStation maker has deliberately designed its games to induce children to make in-app purchases, often without the consent of parents or guardians. The 23-page case further sticks on the apparent ease with which minors can create accounts on the defendant’s network, and thereby input credit card details without permission, by claiming that they are their parents.
“SIE does not effectively prohibit such practices despite their obvious knowledge that minors may engage in such activities due to their lack of maturity,” the case reads.
The defendant is the entity responsible for the PlayStation Store, where gamers can download video games and other digital content for the PlayStation 4 console, the suit says. To use the PlayStation Network, users must create and register an online account and agree to the defendant’s Terms of Service and User Agreement, which the lawsuit points out makes clear a user must be the legal age of majority, or, if younger, have the consent of a parent or legal guardian.
As the lawsuit tells it, however, the problem is that the defendant employs ineffective measures to stop minors from creating accounts—and using their parents’ payment cards for in-game purchases—without permission. Adding to matters, Sony Interactive Entertainment allegedly designs its games, like the wildly popular Fortnite, “to entice minors into making in-game purchases,” and what results, the complaint says, is a situation in which minors can rack up serious unauthorized charges on their parents’ dime.
The plaintiff claims in the suit that her son, an avid Fortnite player, made an account on the PlayStation Network that allowed him to use virtual currency—V-bucks—bought from the PlayStation store to buy “skins” for use within the game. The boy, the lawsuit says, spent more than $1,000 on the plaintiff’s credit and debit cards without her authorization.
All told, the lawsuit claims that while many games available for download through the PlayStation Network are free or close to it, the games themselves, which the suit describes as “bait apps,” are designed “solely to lure children to purchase game currency” in order to meet the objectives within the game. Games like Fortnite, the complaint argues, may be free to download, but are “a tremendous moneymaker” for the defendant due to the myriad ways players can spend money within the app.
“The targeting of children by SIE and inducing them to purchase, without the knowledge or permission of their parents, millions of dollars of Game Currency, is unlawful exploitation in the extreme,” the lawsuit states.