Fortnite: Epic Games Pays Half Billion Dollars in FTC Settlement – News
The US agency for consumer protection and competition surveillance Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had sued Epic Games. The reason for this was two cases of violations of applicable US laws for the protection of customers and, in particular, minors in Fortnite. The parties have now agreed out of court that the software company will pay $520 million.
The first allegation is reflected in 275 million US dollars. This is a violation of the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): According to the FTC, Epic Games collected data from players who were under the age of 13 without informing legal guardians. Voice and text chat has also been activated by default in the settings for players in this age group.
The second allegation involves the use of manipulative design practices known as “dark patterns” that trick players into making unintended purchases. Among other things, the FTC refers to the fact that in Fortnite it is particularly easy to buy objects in the shop instead of displaying a preview. The return option and reimbursement in the event of a bad purchase, on the other hand, are hidden and hard to find. In addition, complaints against this practice have been ignored and players who have revoked their payment via their credit card provider have also been blocked. To settle this allegation, Epic Games is paying $245 million to the FTC. The authority wants to add this sum to a pot where customers who were affected by erroneous purchases in Fortnite between 2017 and 2022 can apply for a refund.
According to kotaku Epic Games has changed various practices in the course of the investigation, which the developer says are due to unintentional settings:
- Automatic saving of payment methods
- One-touch purchases
- Disabling accounts that request refunds for fraudulent purchases
- Lack of self-service refunds
- No spending limits for players under the age of 13
Epic Games comments on this agreement in its own blog. In this, the company is purified. Accordingly, one wants to be at the forefront in terms of consumer protection in the future. The gaming industry is a place of fast-paced innovation and rising player expectations, and no developer wants to be in the same place with a title as Epic Games is in this case. It goes on to say:
The old status quo of in-game commerce and privacy has changed and many developer practices should be re-evaluated. We share the fundamental principles of fairness, transparency and privacy enforced by the FTC.
The FTC Chair Linda M Khan commented on the verdict:
As our complaints note, Epic Games used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teens and children. Protecting the public, and especially children, from online privacy violations and dark patterns is a top priority for the Commission, and these enforcement actions make it clear to companies that the FTC is taking action to stop these illegal practices.
The FTC recently made headlines for filing an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft’s plans to acquire Activision Blizzard.