Fortnite video game maker to pay $520m over privacy and billing claims | Fortnite

The video game company Epic Games will pay a total of $520m in penalties and refunds to settle complaints involving children’s privacy and methods that tricked players into making purchases, US federal regulators said on Monday.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that it had secured the record-breaking settlements for two cases from Epic Games, which makes the popular game Fortnite.

“Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” the FTC chair, Lina Khan, said in a statement.

Epic Games agreed to pay a $275m fine for collecting personal information on Fortnite players under the age of 13 without informing their parents or getting their consent.

It is the biggest penalty ever issued for breaking an FTC rule.

The company is also refunding $245m to customers who fell victim to so-called “dark patterns” and billing practices.

Dark patterns are deceptive online techniques used to nudge users into doing things they did not intend to do.

In this case, “Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button,” the FTC said.

Players could, for example, be charged while trying to wake the game from sleep mode, while the game was in a loading screen, or by pressing a nearby button when simply trying to preview an item, it said.

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

Epic Games said it was making the payment to resolve concerns over “past designs of the Fortnite item shop and refund systems”. The FTC will use and distribute the money “to Epic customers at their discretion,” the company said.

“Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate,” the company said. “The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and longstanding industry practices are no longer enough.”

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