Epic Games, the developer and publisher of the tremendously successful battle royal shooter, Fortnite, has been, in total fined $520 million.
It has agreed to pay two of the biggest settlements in FTC history involving the gaming industry; 245,000,000 for “tricking” customers into spending their money, and 275,000,000 for privacy violations involving children and teenagers.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that Epic Games made it easy for players to accidentally spend money on in-game items and difficult for them to get refunds on them.
They also claimed that Epic made deliberate decisions to appeal to children by making deals with figures like Ariana Grande, luring children into buying seasonal in-game items. The $245 million is the largest refund carried out in gaming history.
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FTC claimed that despite the decision to market their game towards children and teenagers, they didn’t add any proper parental control system and that the age verification system they added in 2019 was too late, during which children were being paired with strangers, exposing them to psychologically traumatizing situations like bullying and harassment.
Hence the penalty of $275 million dollars, which is the largest in the history of COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act).
Lina Khan, the Chairperson of the FTC said: “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.”