SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Roblox Corporation (“Roblox”) has been named in a civil action filed by parents from families who lost significant money to the platform after relying on Roblox’s representations that the site was safe and appropriate for their children. In an amended complaint filed in San Diego Superior Court, the plaintiffs accuse Roblox of intentional and negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law, Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and State Consumer Protection Acts.
“There’s a misperception that Roblox is safe – the brand has bit of a halo around it due to the company falsely advertising itself that way to parents,” said Alexandra Walsh, Founder of Walsh Law. “Parents who would never let their kids use TikTok don’t think twice about letting them on Roblox, even though what they encounter on Roblox can be far more harmful. The platform’s popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic, when parents were desperately seeking social interaction for their children. But Roblox has overstayed its welcome in spaces designed for kids.”
“Roblox is an astoundingly popular platform, on par with Barbie and Lego as a one-word brand name that sparks trust among parents and educators. But it’s a misplaced trust and is completely undeserved,” said Anne Andrews, Founding Partner of Andrews & Thornton. “Parents need to know about the dangers that children encounter in Roblox’s metaverse, and children need to know that when they are spending Robux, they are actually spending their parents’ real money. Roblox claims it goes ‘above and beyond’ to keep kids safe, but the systems that monitor lewd behavior often fail, and the platform makes it nearly impossible for parents to monitor, track and quantify where and how children spend their money.”
According to statements made by the company, SEC filings, and public reports, Roblox is one of the largest and fastest growing gaming platforms in the world, designed to bring users together in a virtual universe, or “metaverse.” Before any user can obtain digital content, they must first purchase “Robux,” the digital currency used only on the Roblox platform. Roblox makes money when users purchase Robux with real-world currency. The overwhelming majority of its users are young children who often cannot appreciate that Robux is real money.
As detailed in the complaint, to maximize users – and therefore, revenue – Roblox fails to warn and misleads parents about the widespread inappropriate and harmful content children often encounter in the virtual world. Roblox specifically misleads parents about the efficacy of its filtering technologies and its ability to make the site safe and appropriate for children. Due to its deceptive advertising and numerous misrepresentations, parents are induced to spend money on the platform.
Roblox is a platform overwhelmingly used by minors. According to a February 2022 SEC filing, at least 60 percent of Roblox users are under the age of 16, with 23 percent being between the ages of 9-12 and 22 percent being under the age of 9. Just 17 percent of users are adults aged 25 and up. In April 2020, Roblox boasted that two-thirds of American children between the ages of 9 and 12 played on its platform.
The complaint notes that Roblox’s growth has outpaced that of the games industry as a whole by a wide margin. As of August 2020, Roblox hosted more than 164 million users each month and reported more than 65.5 million daily active users during the second quarter of this year.
What Children Are Encountering on Roblox
As detailed in the complaint, children using Roblox have encountered nude avatars, avatars engaging in intercourse, and use of sex toys, as well as virtual strip clubs.
One plaintiff, “K.M.,” set up her then-seven-year-old son with a Roblox account in 2021. She spent over $4,000 on the platform, relying on Roblox’s misrepresentations that it was a safe environment for her child. In fact, Roblox was just the opposite. K.M. discovered that multiple users sent her child abusive and profane messages directly through the Roblox messaging service. For instance, one user asked her son to perform virtual oral sex on his avatar in the game. Another user asked her son to show them his genitals, and yet another called him a malicious racial slur.
A second plaintiff, “M.P.,” has a daughter who started using the Roblox platform in 2019 when she was 9 years old. After monitoring her daughter’s account by linking it to her own, M.P. encountered links sent directly to her daughter’s account from multiple users that redirected to external pornography websites.
A third plaintiff, “D.U.,” is a father of three whose children began using the platform in 2017. In 2021, he learned that his then-12-year-old daughter had formed an online relationship with another Roblox user who purported to be the same age. In reality, his daughter’s “friend” was a senior woman. D.U. searched their chat history and discovered that the woman was attempting to groom his daughter and had sent messages of a sexual nature to her. D.U. has spent between $3,000 and $5,000 or more on Roblox with the belief that the platform was a safe environment for his children to learn, play, and develop their expressive creativity for 1-2 hours per day, on average.
As the complaint states: “Roblox advertises its product as ‘family friendly’ despite rampant inappropriate and predatory conduct.” Its Community Guidelines state: “Roblox is a safe space for meeting online friends, chatting, and collaborating on creative projects.” Specifically, Roblox tells parents: “If your child is under 13, we make it extremely difficult for strangers on Roblox to contact them.” That is untrue.
In fact, Roblox makes it extremely easy. Almost all safeguards to prevent strangers from contacting and grooming children on Roblox are disabled by default. And Roblox has misled even tech-savvy parents into believing they had prevented their children from reckless spending. For example, parents often believe that children cannot make in-app purchases because they have not linked a credit card to their child’s Roblox account. But because children can make purchases through third-party operators, payments can be made through several platforms where parents have provided payment details, such as PayPal, Google Pay, iTunes, Xbox, Microsoft, Windows, Amazon, and others.
Not only does Roblox obscure the real price of in-app purchases on the front end and make it hard for parents to monitor those purchases, but its misrepresentations about the safety of its product also render those purchases worthless or worth less than bargained for. The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs – and many more parents across the country – were deceived into spending money on Roblox through the bold and inaccurate statements the company made, and that they would have found a different place to spend their money if they had known the truth.
About Walsh Law, PLLC
Walsh Law, PLLC, is a Washington-based trial boutique firm dedicated to representing children, families and individuals seeking justice in our nation’s courts. The firm’s founder, Alex Walsh, is a nationally recognized trial attorney who has tried cases in state and federal courts around the country. In 2021, Alex decided to turn a page in her career, leaving the defense side so she could start a firm devoted entirely to fighting for plaintiffs. At Walsh Law, Alex has assembled a team of highly talented litigators, who honed their skills at elite litigation firms and have now come together to help our most vulnerable citizens. From hard-fought trials to complex class actions to precedent-setting appeals, Walsh Law has decades of collective experience at every stage of litigation. Learn more at alexwalshlaw.com.
About Andrews & Thornton
Andrews & Thornton is a national leader in complex cases involving survivors of sexual exploitation and assault, recognized for its work establishing the $2.6 billion Boy Scouts of America victims’ compensation fund and on music and entertainment industry cases. The firm is also a leader in pharmaceutical, medical device and dietary supplement litigation, bringing lawsuits in State and Federal courts across the country. Its attorneys have earned a national reputation as effective mass tort advocates and have been asked to participate with mass tort leadership in California, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Minnesota. Andrews & Thornton has also worked inside some of the largest corporate bankruptcies in history to secure compensation for victims, including each of the opioid bankruptcies. Learn more at andrewsthornton.com.