In what is believed to be the first consumer protection action taken by a state involving Kickstarter project, the attorney general for Washington state has filed suit against a company that raised $25,000 on the crowdfunding site but has allegedly failed to deliver anything to its backers or offer refunds.
The complaint [PDF] was filed earlier this week in King County Superior Court, naming a Nashville-based company and its president as defendants.
According to the suit, in the fall of 2012, the defendants ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce horror-themed playing cards. The initial fundraising goal was $15,000, with backers promised everything from one deck of the cards for pledges of $9 to sketches from the artist for pledges of $35.
After reaching that level in only a few weeks, the operators of the campaign added new rewards options. Eventually, the campaign raised $25,146 from a total of 810 backers. The campaign stated that backers would receive their rewards for supporting the project in December 2012, but the state says that, as of April 2014, not one of those hundreds of supporters had received anything or been offered a refund.
The campaign’s comment board has hundreds of complaints from backers who did not receive anything. The creators of the campaign have not posted any updates online since last July.
Washington AG Bob Ferguson alleges that the operators of the campaign violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act by taking backers’ money then failing to either deliver what they had paid for or offer them refunds.
The suit asks the court to compel the company to issue refunds to the backers, along with imposing a penalty of up to $2,000 per violation. Even that only applies to the 31 Washington residents who backed the campaign, that still adds up to more than double the amount of money the campaign took in via Kickstarter pledges.
“Consumers need to be aware that crowdfunding is not without risk,” Ferguson said in a statement to the Seattle Times. “This lawsuit sends a clear message to people seeking the public’s money: Washington state will not tolerate crowdfunding theft.”