Facebook will not do this voluntarily, however.
The decision to refund parents for their kids’ purchases stems from a February 2012 lawsuit filed in California over Facebook Credits, a now-defunct virtual currency that has since been replaced by Facebook Payments. With Facebook Credits, users were able to buy virtual items inside games like FarmVille using either their debit or credit cards.
According to the lawsuit, one of the plaintiffs allowed her son to use her credit card to purchase features within the game Ninja Emblem. What she thought was a one-time, $20 charge turned into multiple charges totaling hundreds of dollars, since her son thought it was fake money. The other plaintiffs’ child took their debit card without their permission, which led to charges totaling $1,059.
At the time, John R. Parker, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that kids do not fully realize what getting that item they lusted over really means for the parents.
“They’ve got a credit card they put into their account and they don’t realize that every time they click on some button in the game to get some extra magic coin, the company is charging the parent’s account,” said Parker.
Interestingly, the lawsuit is not just a matter of kids unknowingly making in-app and in-game purchases, but a matter of California legislation. Called the Family Code, the state’s legislation allows contracts with minors to be voided by minors before they turn 18. Keeping in mind that Facebook allows users as young as 13 years old to open an account, Facebook argued that it cannot issue refunds, since whatever the kids bought was already purchased and used.
The court rejected such a defense, saying that minors are entitled to refunds, even for items they used. Furthermore, the Family Code is in place to protect children, since they do not fully comprehend the ramifications of buying that extra bushel of strawberries.
Because of this, if you were charged for items bought by a Facebook account whose owner is 17 years old or younger, you might be entitled to a refund. Make your way to the Facebook Payments support page and just follow the directions to get the process started.
Facebook is far from the only company that has dealt with the backlash of children unknowingly making in-app and in-game purchases. Back in 2014, the Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon for not doing enough to prevent children from making such purchases. That same year, Apple found itself in a similar predicament, and Google redesigned the Play Store to make it harder for children to make in-app purchases without permission.