Epic Games will pay a whopping $520 million after a Federal Trade Commission investigation found it had invaded children’s privacy and tricked some players into buying things they didn’t want on Fortnite. The Commission announced on monday which is the largest fine ever assessed in the regulatory agency’s history.
The FTC accuses the company of making tons of money off of kids without following rules meant to protect them online. The first of two deals announced Monday is to collect personal information from players from Fortnite with children under 13, and in-game settings that enable voice and text chat by default. A violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule resulted in an initial fine of $275 million and a commitment from Epic to change the default settings of Fortnite.
The second settlement is for using “shady patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases.” Basically, Epic is accused of facilitating the accidental purchase of skins when previewing them, and of making it difficult to have a refund option when players want to reverse the transaction. The FTC also says that when the charges were reversed, Epic would sometimes ban those accounts, leaving players locked out of content they had previously paid for. As a result, Epic will pay $245 million into a fund to reimburse players affected by unintentional purchases.
Epic Games wrote in a recent blog post who believes this is a turning point for the evolution of regulatory standards around online gaming. “The old status quo for in-game commerce and privacy has changed, and many developer practices should be reconsidered,” the company wrote. “We share the underlying principles of fairness, transparency, and privacy that the FTC enforces, and the practices referenced in the FTC’s complaints are not the way the FTC operates. Fortnite“.
Here’s a quick list of some of the tactics that Epic says weren’t intentionally exploitative, but have recently changed after investigation:
- Automatically save payment details
- One-touch shopping
- Disable accounts seeking refunds for fraudulent purchases
- Lack of self-service refunds
- There are no spending limits for players under 13 years of age.