Lawsuit Claims Hatchimals-Maker Deceived Consumers Over Toy

A month after the holiday’s hottest toy — Hatchimals — left many parents, and their youngsters, disappointed when the interactive toy failed to hatch, one woman left holding an allegedly useless item has sued Spin Master, the company behind the plaything. 

The class-action seeking lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in California, claims that in a bid to quickly put out as many toys as it could for the holiday season, Spin Master created a toy that would never work as it was advertised.

According to the lawsuit [PDF], the woman purchased a Hatchimal for her daughter’s birthday in January. When the girl opened the gift she followed the instructions included in the package to attempt to hatch it.

But that didn’t work, and the toy remained inside its egg. The suit alleges that the woman, along with thousands of other customers, received a defective product.

In addition to the woman’s issue with the toy, the suit — which seeks refunds for those who received the allegedly defective toys — cites a handful of other complaints written by customers on sites like Amazon and Toys ‘R’ Us.

“I paid triple the price so I could get my five-year-old daughter what she wanted, but when it was time to play with it, the Hatchimal would not respond inside the egg,” a customer wrote on Amazon. “We watched every YouTube video we could for help, but to no avail… We had to open it ourselves.”

“We were very displeased with our Hatchimal. My daughter was super excited to receive it for her birthday. After 3 hours of attempted hatching we gave up,” another Amazon reviewer notes. “It did not hatch and that is half the fun for these kids.”

The lawsuit claims that Spin Master knew that the “hatching” was one of the primary draws of the toy, yet “this excitement was replaced with extreme disappointment for the many children when their Hatchimals did not hatch.”

“Millions of children and families across the globe were sourly disappointed with coal in their stockings, in the form of a bait-and-switch marketing scheme perpetrated by Spin Master,” the lawsuit alleges.

While the lawsuit claims the company pulled a so-called “bait-and-switch” on customers, it’s unclear if that’s actually the case.

The Federal Trade Commission guidelines on what constitutes bait-and-switch are quite specific. The main thrust of the “bait” part of that scam is that there is a deliberate intention to deceive the customer into shopping for the initial offer (for example, a deeply discounted computer) while having no intention to ever sell them that product in the first place.

“Its purpose is to switch consumers from buying the advertised merchandise, in order to sell something else, usually at a higher price or on a basis more advantageous to the advertiser,” writes the FTC. “The primary aim of a bait advertisement is to obtain leads as to persons interested in buying merchandise of the type so advertised.”

Then there’s the “switch,” wherein the retailer uses that bait to lure the consumer into either buying a more expensive item or to paying more for the originally advertised product than was initially listed.

In the case of the Hatchimals, it seems that customers simply received a defective product, as others reported opening toys that worked as advertised.

Spin Master executive vice president and general counsel, Christopher Harrs tells CNBC that the company stands behind its products and cares about customers.

“Given the popularity of Hatchimals and the overwhelmingly positive consumer response, a large number of Hatchimals were purchased as gifts and opened on Christmas day. As a result, the Company experienced a higher than anticipated number of consumer calls over the holiday period,” Harrs said.