The complaint alleged that loot boxes -- in-game mechanisms that provide users with randomized virtual items for purchase -- found within games available on the Google Play store constitute unlawful internet gambling, unfair and deceptive practices, and unjust enrichment. The complaint particularly focused on the susceptibility of children in purchasing such loot boxes found within the games available on the Google Play store.
In response, Google filed a motion to dismiss arguing that under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA"), Google is immune for liability concerning the games available on the Google Play store. Google also argued that the claims within the complaint, including the claims regarding unlawful internet gambling, were without merit and inadequately pleaded.
The Northern District of California granted Google's motion to dismiss, holding that Google was shielded from liability for the games available on the Google Play store under Section 230 of the CDA. Indeed, the Court held that:
“[Google] operates the Google Play store from which software applications (‘apps’), including video games containing Loot Boxes, may be downloaded. Google does not create the video game apps or Loot Boxes. Plaintiffs nonetheless allege that Google violates state consumer protection laws by offering video games containing Loot Boxes in its Google Play store and profiting from in-app purchase of Loot Boxes.... Google cannot be held liable for merely allowing video game developers to provide apps to users through the Google Play store, as ‘providing third parties with neutral tools to create web content is considered to be squarely within the protections of § 230.'"
Additionally, the Court held that the plaintiffs failed to adequately plead their claims. However, in dismissing the complaint the Court did provide the plaintiffs with the opportunity to seek leave to amend the complaint to more sufficiently plead their claims. As such, while Google has won this round, it is possible, and perhaps likely, this fight is not over.
We'll be sure to keep you up to date with any additional developments.
"Google cannot be held liable for merely allowing video game developers to provide apps to users through the Google Play store, as ‘providing third parties with neutral tools to create web content is considered to be squarely within the protections of § 230'"