Fortnite maker Epic Games pays $520 million in fines and rebates for tricking users into downloading paid content

Fortnite maker Epic Games pays 0 million in fines and rebates for tricking users into downloading paid content

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

US regulator the Federal Trade Commission said in a release on Monday that the company will pay $275 million for violating a law known as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by using design tricks to get children to download in-game content that costs genuine. -world’s money.

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

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

The FTC says Fortnite’s “counterintuitive, inconsistent and confusing button configuration caused players to incur unwanted costs based on pressing a single button.”

Because of these design tricks, the regulator says it found cases where players were charged while trying to wake the game from sleep mode, while the game was in a loading screen, or by pressing an adjacent button while simply trying to preview an item.

“These tactics resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges to consumers,” the FTC said.

Some parents complained that their children had racked up hundreds of dollars in fees before they realized Epic had charged their credit card without their consent. Accounts that disputed unauthorized transactions on their credit cards often had their entire account locked, denying customers access to content they had willingly paid for.

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“Even when Epic agreed to unlock an account, consumers were warned that they could be banned for life if they disputed any future charges,” the FTC said.

The company “ignored more than one million user complaints and repeated employee concerns that large numbers of users were being wrongly charged. In fact, Epic’s changes only made the problem worse,” the FTC said. “Using internal testing, Epic purposefully obscured cancellation and refund features to make them harder to find.”

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

Privacy breach too

In addition to the fine for content downloads, the FTC says Epic Games also violated COPPA by disregarding privacy concerns.

The game’s default settings allow text and voice communication for users. It allowed children and teens to be bullied, threatened, harassed and exposed to dangerous and psychologically traumatizing issues like suicide while on Fortnite, the FTC said.

“The company also required parents who requested that their children’s personal information be deleted to jump through unreasonable hoops, and sometimes failed to honor such requests,” the FTC said.

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