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Roblox Must Face Minor’s Lawsuit Over Deleted Avatar Clothing

May 10, 2022, 3:00 PM

Roblox Corp. must face a proposed class suit alleging it failed to disclose that it can delete virtual items purchased by users of its online gaming platform, most of whom are minors, a federal court in California said.

Roblox owns and operates an online “metaverse” in which users control avatars of themselves. Users can purchase an in-game currency—Robux—and spend it on virtual items for their avatars, some of which are generated by other users. Roblox takes a percentage of the money from these transactions, Jane Doe says.

Doe created an account when she was 10 years old and says she used Robux to make purchases such as clothing for her avatar.

Doe thought she “owned” the virtual items. But unbeknownst to users, she alleges, Roblox will delete some items from their inventories without warning, to induce users to buy more.

Roblox’s terms of use, which include an arbitration provision and class action waiver and require informal dispute resolution, don’t apply to minor plaintiff Doe because they weren’t adequately disclosed to her, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said Monday.

Roblox knew Doe’s age because users had to enter their birthdays when they create accounts, the court said. It didn’t require her to get an adult’s permission or supervision, the court said. The only indication that she was agreeing to complicated terms of use “was a not-so-conspicuous disclaimer above a bright sign-up button,” Judge William H. Orrick said.

The court rejected Roblox’s argument that the case is mooted because the company credited Doe and others to make up for deletion of their virtual items.

The parties disagree about whether Doe actually received this credit, and it isn’t clear that Roblox’s unilateral decision to credit affected users will achieve the full scope of relief that an injunction would award, the court said.

Doe’s claims aren’t barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet platforms from liability for publishing another’s content, the court said.

She doesn’t seek to treat Roblox as a publisher or speaker of the user-generated content, the court said. Liability would instead attach for Roblox’s alleged failure to disclose that it can delete previously purchased items with no warning, it said.

Doe stated viable claims for common law fraud and for violations of California consumer protection laws, the court said.

A jury could find that a reasonable consumer—especially a minor—would rely on a course of conduct that appeared to be a straightforward purchase of the virtual items, it said.

Levi & Korsinsky LLP and Edelson PC represent Doe. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati represents Roblox.

The case is Doe v. Roblox Corp., N.D. Cal., No. 3:21-cv-03943, 5/9/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Brian Flood at bflood@bloomberglaw.com

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