Blogs & Comment

Winners & Losers: Lego makes millions off kids, Google refunds millions to their parents

Everything is awesome, except when the credit card bill comes

 Lego

Block party

Barbie asking for a raise and a Lego minifig in a top hat driving a convertible telling her to get a job

The Lego Movie—a 100-minute toy commercial that cost viewers $12 to watch when it came out last February—featured a fiendishly catchy theme song entitled “Everything is Awesome.” And with good reason, it turns out: Lego, the danish toy maker and scourge of barefoot parents everywhere, announced this week that The Lego Movie had helped boost the company’s revenues by 11% and profits by 14% for the first half of 2014. In those six months, Lego sold a record 11.5 billion danish kroner-worth of blocks—or $2.17 billion Canadian—enough to make it the biggest toy maker in the world by revenue (it was already the most profitable). Lego says growth has been particularly strong in China, where it recently opened its first factory and where sales grew 50% in the last six months alone. Its growth spurt was enough to allow Lego to pull ahead of arch-rival Mattel, maker of Barbie, Hot Wheels and, of course, the Canadian-born Mega Bloks, which Mattel bought (mere days after The Lego Movie came out) in order to try to compete with Lego. All of Mattel’s major brands saw declines in the last six months. Everything may be awesome—but not for everyone.

 Google

Searching for a refund?

Baby playing online poker with credit cards near keyboard

The search giant announced that it would pay $19 million to settle a complaint brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over unauthorized in-app purchases made by chubby-fingered children. Google’s app store, called Google Play, introduced in-app payments in 2011, which quickly became a business model for games and other apps popular with kids. But at the time, Google Play didn’t require consumers to confirm purchases with their passwords. That allowed millions of precocious tots to ring up hefty credit-card bills without their parents’ knowledge. That being the kind of misbehaviour traditionally reserved for teenagers, Google agreed to refund the money. Like many things about Android, of course, Apple’s iOS did it first and did it bigger; in January the iPhone maker settled with the FTC for exactly the same problem with its own app store for $32.5 million.