This week, Epic Games, the company behind the hugely popular video game Fortnite, received the largest penalty in FTC history for violating a rule.
For breaking the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and deceiving millions of gamers into paying unauthorised in-game purchases using a method known as “Dark patterns,” the developer was forced to pay $520 million.
In-game purchases like digital skins for users’ characters and seasonal “Battle Passes,” which offer valuable goods as a user spends more time playing, are how Fortnite earns billions of dollars while remaining a free to play game.
The FTC stated in a statement outlining Epic’s infractions that the game’s “counterintuitive, inconsistent and confusing button layout led players to incur unwarranted charges based on the click of a single button,” including when users believed the game was in sleep mode or a loading screen.
According to the FTC, “these strategies resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorised charges for consumers.”
Children were able to buy in-game cash in Fortnite “without requiring any parents or cardholder action or approval.” When their children “racked up hundreds of dollars in expenses before they learned Epic had charged their credit card without their knowledge,” parents reported that their children had done.
In reaction to the fine, Epic issued a statement saying, “The rules have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry standards are no longer sufficient.” We agreed to this agreement because we want Epic to lead the way in consumer protection and give our gamers the finest possible experience.
$245 million of the $520 million fine will be reserved for customer reimbursements.
Are You Eligible for A Fortnite Refund?
Three groups can expect 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 Refunds Be Paid Out?
Users who are impacted “don’t need to do anything right now,” according to the FTC.
Customers who paid for in-game purchases will be notified via email when anything new is posted on the FTC’s web page for the Fortnite fine.
The organisation warns clients to watch out for dishonest people who might try to con them into paying a fee in exchange for an FTC refund.
Correction: The story has been updated to include a comment from Epic Games and to make clear that, in addition to misleading gamers, the company was punished for breaking the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
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