Google sells apps on its Play Store that allow users to make in-app purchases, typically the buying of “currency” for use in app-based games. This putative class action alleged that the games were aimed at minor children and allowed them to make in-app purchases unobstructed for a period of 30 minutes after a password was entered.
As a result, minors were able to make one click, large-dollar-amount purchases without parental authorization. Prior to the filing of the complaint, however, Google had settled a dispute with the FTC over the same issue and paid out $30 million in reimbursements. In light of the FTC settlement, Google argued that the putative class failed the superiority and adequacy requirements.
The Northern District of California agreed with Google. Relying on Kamm v. Cal. City Dev’t Co., 509 F.2d 205 (9th Cir. 1975), the court found the putative class failed the superiority requirement, largely on the basis that the relief sought in the litigation – refunds of in-app purchases – was duplicative of relief already provided under the regulatory settlement, and that the litigation would be unduly costly to Google and the court.
The court rejected plaintiffs’ argument that the superiority requirement was met because punitive damages were unavailable under the FTC settlement, and agreed with Google that the likelihood of recovering punitive damages in court was remote.