Viacom Can’t Avoid Child Privacy Suit with Inconspicuous Arbitration Clause

Simon S. Grille— November 8, 2018

A hidden arbitration provision can’t help Viacom defend claims that it illegally collected the personal information of kids who played its “Llama Spit Spit” cell phone game, a federal judge ruled last month.  

The plaintiffs—a mother and her daughter—sued the multi-billion-dollar media conglomerate in a consumer privacy class action, asking to represent all parents and children whose personal information Viacom took for commercial gain.

In response, Viacom argued that the plaintiffs waived their right to pursue a class action in court, and must instead file their claims individually in a private forum known as “arbitration.” (For more information on arbitration, see our post here.) The company claimed that just by using the app, the plaintiffs had agreed to an arbitration clause buried in the fine print of the app description.  

The court disagreed, holding that the plaintiffs couldn’t have agreed to an arbitration agreement they didn’t even know about. The court explained that users could download and play the game without ever seeing the page with the arbitration clause. There is no agreement in that situation, so a company cannot force arbitration.

The Viacom decision is a win for consumers and a blow to companies who try to avoid accountability for privacy violations by sneaking arbitration clauses into the fine print.    

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Girard Sharp LLP represents consumers, investors, and institutions in class actions and other complex litigation nationwide. Our class action lawyers have obtained multimillion-dollar recoveries for victims of unfair and deceptive practices in antitrust, financial fraud, and consumer protection matters against some of the country’s largest corporations (including Raymond James, John Hancock, Sears, Yahoo, and JP Morgan Chase). Girard Sharp LLP has earned top tier rankings from U.S. News and World Report for Securities and Class Action Litigation and was selected as a 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers finalist by the National Law Journal.


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