Epic Games, the creator of the popular battle royale video game Fortnite, was smacked with the biggest penalty in the history of the Federal Trade Commission for breaking the rules this week.
According to the ruling, the developer is ordered to pay $520 million in gross violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in addition to duping millions of unsuspecting players into making involuntary in-game purchases using a technique called “Dark patterns.”
Fortnite is free to play on Android, iOS, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC platforms, and makes billions of dollars from in-app purchases in the form of digital skins for various characters and seasonal “Battle Passes” that reward players with useful items as they spend more time playing the game.
In an official release detailing Epic’s violations, the FTC mentioned that the game’s “counterintuitive, inconsistent and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button,” as well as instances where players believed the game is in a loading screen or in sleep mode.
The FTC said, “these tactics led to hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges for consumers.”
Fortnite made it possible for children to purchase its in-game currency “without requiring any parents or cardholder action or consent.” Leading to parents complaining that their kids “racked up hundreds of dollars in charges before they realized Epic has charged their credit card without their consent.”
In a statement responding to the penalty, Epic said, “the laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and longstanding industry practices are no longer enough.” The developer stated further, “we accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
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Are You Eligible For A Fortnite Refund?
Of the total $520 million fine, $245 million will be dedicated to refunding affected customers.
These groups can expect to be in line to receive money back:
- Parents whose kids made unauthorized purchases in the Epic Games Store between January 2017 and November 2018
- Players who were charged Fortnite’s in-game currency for items they didn’t intend to buy between January 2017 and September 2022
- Players who disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card companies and, as a result, had their accounts locked
When Will The FTC’s Fortnite Refund Payouts Begin?
Users on the receiving end of Epic’s chicanery “don’t need to do anything right now,” FTC says.
The FTC will keep posting updates on its landing page reserved for the Fortnite penalty, and customers who made unintended in-game purchases will receive email notices about further developments.
Meanwhile, the agency wants customers to keep their guard up at all times and be on the lookout for bad actors looking to trick people into paying a fee in exchange for an FTC refund.