FTC finalises order that Epic must pay $245m to consumers over ‘unwanted’ Fornite purchases
Epic will pay a further $275 million as part of a separate penalty to the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission has finalized its order requiring Epic Games to pay $245 million back to consumers over “unwanted” purchases.
The payment is to settle charges that the company “used dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases” and let children rack up unauthorized charges without any parental involvement.
The complaint, which was raised in December as part of a settlement with Epic, alleged that the Fortnite developer “deployed a variety of design tricks known as dark patterns aimed at getting consumers of all ages to make unintended in-game purchases.”
The Next Generation of Fortnite Powered by Unreal Engine 5.1
This included players incurring unwanted charges “based on the press of a single button”, for example, by attempting to wake the game from sleep mode, while the game was in a loading screen, or by pressing an adjacent button while attempting to preview an item.
Fortnite, the monolithic battle royal game that was originally released in 2017, allows players to buy skins and other in-game items using real money. The money, which is spent on the in-game currency known as V-bucks, can’t be transferred out of the game, and in-game items hold no monetary value once purchased.
Items are often released on the Fortnite store for a limited time, and once they leave the store, they can no longer be purchased, except in some cases when items are added back to the store for a limited time. However, this is far from the case with every item.
“Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button,” reads a new statement from the FTC.
“The company also made it easy for children to make purchases while playing Fortnite without requiring any parental consent. According to the FTC’s complaint, Epic also locked the accounts of customers who disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card companies.”
Epic will pay $275 million as part of a separate penalty for allegations that the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule.
In a blog post from December addressing the FTC settlements, Epic claimed: “No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here… We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.
“Over the past few years, we’ve been making changes to ensure our ecosystem meets the expectations of our players and regulators, which we hope will be a helpful guide for others in our industry.”
It added: “The old status quo for in-game commerce and privacy has changed, and many developer practices should be reconsidered. We share the underlying principles of fairness, transparency and privacy that the FTC enforces, and the practices referenced in the FTC’s complaints are not how Fortnite operates.
“We will continue to be upfront about what players can expect when making purchases, ensure cancellations and refunds are simple, and build safeguards that help keep our ecosystem safe and fun for audiences of all ages.”