Epic Games fined $520M by the FTC for duping Fortnite players


Epic Games fined $520M by the FTC for duping Fortnite players

The Federal Trade Commission or FTC has found that Epic Games, the developer, and publisher of the game Fortnite, has violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act(COPPA) and also, designed tricks to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases. Epic Games will allegedly have to pay $520M for this violation. Incidentally, this has been the largest penalty ever levied by FTC for violating their rule.

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Epic Games allegedly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data from Fortnite players under the age of 13. Additionally, by automatically permitting real-time voice and text chat connections for kids and teenagers, Epic broke the FTC Act’s prohibition on unfair business practices. They had charged Epic with placing kids and teenagers “with strangers,” subjecting them to “dangerous and psychologically distressing issues,” and failing to implement suitable parental control systems.

The company has made it possible for kids to buy Fortnite V-Bucks by merely touching buttons, with no involvement from parents or cardholders. Some parents claimed that before they discovered Epic had charged their credit card without their permission, their children had built up hundreds of dollars in expenses. Similar lawsuits have been filed by the FTC against Amazon, Apple, and Google for allegedly invoicing consumers millions of dollars for in-app purchases made by kids while using mobile apps without their parent’s permission.

FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement “Protecting the public, and especially children, from online privacy invasions and dark patterns is a top priority for the Commission, and these enforcement actions make clear to businesses that the FTC is cracking down on these unlawful practices.”

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epic games controversy
FTC Chair Lina Khan (Image via The Hindu)

According to Epic, the high-privacy default settings are already in place. For players under the age of 18, Fortnite’s privacy settings default to the highest level, with voice and text chat set to “Nobody.”

Epic Games will have to pay $275 million fine to address child privacy concerns.

Epic will also have to pay $245 million in refunds to customers over its “dark patterns.”

These “dark patterns” include charging users while they awaken from sleep mode. These deceive gamers into making unwanted in-game purchases through a “counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button arrangement.” The FTC further alleges that account holders may be charged without their consent. Minors have piled up charges totaling “hundreds of dollars” before their parents were made aware of the situation. Epic Games was also accused of ignoring more than one million user complaints over erroneous charges while “purposefully” concealing the cancel and refund features.

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Read more: How to enable two-factor authentication in Fortnite?

What’s next for Epic Games?

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Building
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Building

Epic Games will have to pay fines for two charges; $245 million against Fortnite’s in-game store and refund systems and $275 million for violating COPPA.

The FTC will use the $245 million settlement, in this case, to give consumers refunds. According to the deal, Epic must stop billing customers in “dark patterns” or without their express approval. It cannot prevent customers from accessing their accounts to contest charges.

Epic Games said in a statement,

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“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here. The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount. Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate. The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”

Although Epic Games has graciously agreed to pay the hefty amount, players will have to wait to see how quickly they remove the hidden charges in the game, making the gaming experience more seamless and transparent for players.

Also Read – Who won the MrBeast Fortnite Extreme Survival Challenge? Tournament leaderboard and more details

Also Read – What comes in the Fortnite Founder’s packs and how to get it?

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