Fortnite maker Epic Games to pay $520M in fines and rebates for duping users into downloading paid content

Epic Games, the maker of the hugely popular video game Fortnite, has agreed to pay $520 million in fines and rebates for tricking millions of players into making unintentional in-game purchases.

US regulator the Federal Trade Commission said in a statement Monday that the company will pay US$275 million for violating a law known as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. children (COPPA) by implementing tricks designed to get kids to download real-priced in-game content. -world money.

The company will also pay $245 million to reimburse consumers for what they spent on downloaded content.

The game, with 400 million players worldwide, is free to download and play but sells things like character costumes and jumps for money.

The FTC said Fortnite’s “unintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration” has resulted in players incurring unwanted charges just by pressing a button.

Because of those design tricks, the regulator says it has discovered instances of players being charged when trying to wake the game from sleep, when the game is at the loading screen, or by pressing an adjacent button while trying to preview only one item.

“These tactics have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized fees for consumers,” the FTC said.

Some parents complained that their kids were charging hundreds of dollars before they realized that Epic had charged their credit cards without their consent. Accounts that dispute unauthorized transactions on their credit cards often have their entire accounts locked, leaving customers without access to the content they’re willing to pay for.

“Even if Epic agreed to unlock accounts, consumers were warned they could be permanently banned if they object to any future fees,” the FTC said.

The company “ignored more than a million user complaints, and employees were constantly concerned that a large number of users had been wrongly charged. In fact, Epic’s changes only made matters worse. worse,” the FTC said. “Using internal testing, Epic intentionally obscured the cancellation and refund features to make them harder to find.”

The COPPA fine is the largest ever penalty for violating an FTC rule.

Violation of privacy, too

In addition to the fine for downloading content, the FTC said Epic Games also violated COPPA by disregarding privacy issues.

The game’s default settings allow users to communicate by text and voice. That allows children and young people to be bullied, threatened, harassed, and exposed to dangerous problems and psychological trauma such as suicide while playing Fortnite, the FTC said.

“The company also requires parents to request deletion of their children’s personal information in order to bypass unreasonable restrictions and sometimes fail to fulfill such requests,” the FTC said.


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