Epic Games has agreed to pay a record $520 million to settle the US Federal Trade Commission allegations. The FTC had accused the Fortnite maker of violating children’s privacy and enticing them to buy its content.
An epic sum that Epic now has to pay
In two separate cases, the FTC asked Epic Games to pay $275 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and an additional $245 million to compensate consumers who were tricked into making unwanted charges. Epic Games is now agreeing to pay the $520 million, like the FTC writes.
According to the FTC, Epic collected the personal information of Fortnite players under the age of 13 without notifying their parents or obtaining their verifiable consent.
In addition, the developer has allowed voice and text communication in real time for children and young people. This is said to have led to the players being threatened and harassed, as well as being exposed to traumatizing topics.
Epic must now ensure that children and young people are kept away from voice and text communication. An exception to this is express consent via a privacy setting.
Accidentally made a purchase in Fortnite?
In the second complaint, the FTC alleges that Epic uses “dark patterns and billing practices” to lure its players into unwanted purchases – across all age groups. Even children have incurred unwanted costs from accidentally pressing a button.
“For example, players could be penalized if they tried to wake the game from sleep mode while the game was in a loading screen, or if they pressed an adjacent key while trying to preview an item.”
In the past, Epic is said to have ignored many complaints about such unwanted charges and even suspended accounts from some users who disputed their billing with their credit card company. But that shouldn’t happen again in the future.
“As is evident from our complaints, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces to deceive Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” said FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan. Protecting children is a top priority for the FTC.
Epic Games says so
Epic Games itself writes in one blog post on the FTC allegations: “No developer is making a game with the intention of ending up here… We entered into this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
The company draws attention to all of its previous changes in order to meet the expectations of the players.
“We will continue to be open about what players can expect when making a purchase, we will ensure cancellations and refunds are easy, and we will put in place safeguards to help ensure our ecosystem is safe and fun for viewers of all ages.”