Google Sued for Refusing to Redeem Google Play Gift Cards

On Thursday, a consumer filed a class-action complaint against Google and its parent company Alphabet, Inc. in the Central District of California for allegedly “refus(ing) to redeem Google Play gift cards in accordance with California law.”

According to the complaint, Google Play is “Google’s software application (a/k/a ‘app’) store, which allows users to download applications, electronic books, music, and the like” to their devices. The plaintiff stated that Google “markets Google Play gift cards, which are redeemable towards one’s Google Play balance”; Google purportedly markets and advertises these gift cards as “‘easy to redeem,’ ‘never expire,’ and can be used to ‘easily manage’ spending on Google Play content.” However, the plaintiff alleged that this is not true because “Google has erected barriers which can make card redemption difficult or even impossible.”

For example, the plaintiff claimed that when a gift cardholder attempts to redeem the gift card, the person must “fill out a form requesting detailed information about when and where the gift card was purchased, and…supply receipts documenting that purchase”; these requirements purportedly make gift card redemption “impossible,” especially “when the gift card was used as it is intended to be, as a gift,” because the recipient “would have no way of knowing the details of the card’s purchase,” according to the plaintiff. The plaintiff added that if a person is able to supply the aforementioned information, Google still allegedly sometimes refuses to redeem or provide refunds for gift cards.”

The plaintiff contended that Google allegedly refuses to allow certain Google Play gift cards to be redeemed “because of an algorithm that Google uses to detect suspicious gift card activity and redemptions which snares bona fide Google Play gift card purchasers and holders in its wide net, effectively invalidating otherwise valid gift cards.”

The plaintiff said they experienced this phenomenon. The plaintiff claimed that he attempted to redeem a lawful, valid Google Play gift card, but instead of being able to easily and immediately redeem the gift card, “he was met with a questionnaire and demands for documentary evidence concerning his purchase.” Moreover, after providing Google with the requested information, Google still purportedly refused to redeem the plaintiff’s gift cards, “leaving him with nothing except worthless plastic cards.” The plaintiff added that these barriers to redeem gift cards likely prevented some consumers from redeeming their gift cards. Subsequently, “Google was able to pocket the funds spent on Google Play gift cards that should have been redeemable by these card holders.”

The plaintiff asserted that Google’s alleged conduct violates various California law, including California’s Gift Card Law, which mandates that gift card issuers ensure gift cards are “‘redeemable in cash for its value, or subject to replacement with a new gift [card] at no cost to the purchaser or holder,’” among other requirements. The other counts against Google are violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law and breach of contract.

The putative class consists of “All bona fide Google Play gift card purchasers and holders who were required to submit extraneous data to redeem a Google Play gift card, including users who were denied redemption of the gift cards.”  

The plaintiff seeks class certification, restitution, an award for damages, as well as declaratory, injunctive, and other relief. The plaintiff is represented by McCune Wright Arevalo.