The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has slapped Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, with $520 million in fines.
Part of the money will now be used to reimburse gamers and their parents with a Fortnite refund.
Epic Games to pay epic price
Epic Games have been slapped with not one, but two mammoth fines from the FTC totaling over half a billion dollars.
The first fine of $275 million is for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). A second fine of $245 million is to refund customers for the use of so-called “dark patterns” which tricked young children and teenagers into unintentionally making purchases within the game.
Both are record-breaking penalties.
FTC Chair Lina M. Khan explained why the government body had taken such a dim view of Epic Games and their practices.
“As our complaints note, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” said Khan.
“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.”
Fortnite is generally free to download and play, but makes its money through in-game items and purchases. With over 400 million users using the game, there is a huge market for those sales.
A string of violations
The FTC state that Epic Games made numerous violations, and failed in their duty to protect children.
One of the most egregious examples is that Epic Games Failed to notify parents or obtain their consent before collecting the personal information of young children. When asked by parents to delete this data the company asked guardians to “jump through unreasonable hoops” and even then did not always comply with such requests.
Epic Games is also said to have put young children and teens in harm’s way with lax security settings. These allowed text and voice communications by default, putting children at higher risk of being bullied, threatened, or harassed. In some situations, children may have even been exposed to “psychologically traumatizing issues.”
The commission has now placed Epic Games on notice and has demanded a string of changes to the platform and its safety procedures. These will be subject to independent audit forward.
Am I eligible for a Fortnite refund?
If you are a parent or guardian who has been affected by Epic Games and Fornite then you could be eligible for a refund.
To receive a refund you must first be a citizen of the United States.
You will be eligible if you are a U.S. citizen who also meets one of the following criteria:
-Your child made an unauthorized credit card purchase in the Epic Games store between January 2017 and November 2018.
-You are a Fortnite player who was charged in-game V-Bucks for unwanted game items between January 2017 and September 2022.
-You are a Fornite player whose account was locked between January 2017 and September 2022 after disputing unauthorized charges.
As for receiving the refund, that stage has not yet arrived. Anyone who wishes to be kept up to date on the progress of proceedings can join the FTC mailing list here.