The FTC has brought its first lawsuit against a guy who bagged thousands of dollars from a Kickstarter campaign and failed to produce anything substantial.
Erik Chevalier was accused of raising $120,000 in funds on Kickstarter with promise of developing a game called The Doom that Came to Atlantic City, but then allegedly used the money for his own purposes.
Described on its Kickstarter page as "a light hearted Lovecraftian game of urban destruction, for two to four players," the game was able to raise $122,874 from 1,246 backers. Those who funded the project were offered rewards including t-shirts and pewter game pieces.
According to the FTC, however, they received none of it. Chevalier only spent a fraction of the money on the game and used the rest to move to Oregon, rent a new home, and establish another business, the watchdog claims.
When the project fell through, Chevalier promised to refund all of the Kickstarter backing, but failed to deliver on that as well. His final update on the project states that he was issuing refunds to the largest backers of the project, but most received nothing.
Comments posted to the Kickstarter page indicate that while a few backers did receive a copy of the game, many were indeed left out of pocket and without a board game.
"Many consumers enjoy the opportunity to take part in the development of a product or service through crowdfunding, and they generally know there’s some uncertainty involved in helping start something new,” FTC consumer protection bureau director Jessica Rich said on Thursday. “But consumers should able to trust their money will actually be spent on the project they funded.”
Unfortunately for those who backed the campaign, however, the FTC won't be able to get their money back. The commission suspended its fine of the remaining $111,793.71 owed to backers because Chevalier doesn't have any of the money left and cannot pay – although that could change if the commission finds out Chevalier has been lying about his financial situation.
El Reg reached out to Kickstarter, who confirmed that, yes, you're pretty much on your own when you give money to a campaign.
"Kickstarter creators have an incredible track record when it comes to following through on their promises," a spokesperson said. "But creators who abuse our system and backers’ trust expose themselves to legal action."
This story, however, had something of a happy ending. After the project fell through, board games distributor Cryptozoic stepped in to finish the game and said it would send a free copy to each of the Kickstarter backers. ®