Fortnite maker pays $520 million for privacy and e-commerce abuse

The maker of the popular Fortnite video game will pay $520 million in penalties and refunds to resolve complaints related to child privacy and its payment methods that have lured players into making unintentional purchases, U.S. federal regulators said on Monday with.

The Federal Trade Commission has reached the settlements to resolve two cases against Epic Games Inc., which has fueled the success of Fortnite into a video game powerhouse over the past five years.

The $520 million covered by the settlement consists of $245 million in customer refunds and a $275 million fine for collecting personal information from Fortnite players under the age of 13 without notifying their parents or obtaining their consent . It is the largest penalty ever imposed for violating an FTC rule.

“Epic used privacy-invading defaults and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teens and children,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement.

Even before the settlement was announced, Epic said in a statement that it had already rolled out a number of changes “to ensure our ecosystem meets the expectations of our players and regulators, which we hope will be a helpful guide for others.” will be in our industry”. The Cary, North Carolina-based company also claimed that it is no longer involved in the practices reported by the FTC.

The $245 million in customer refunds will go to players who have fallen victim to “dark patterns” and billing practices. Dark patterns are deceptive online techniques used to trick users into doing things they want didn’t intend to.

In this case, “Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration resulted in players incurring unwanted charges based on a single button press,” the FTC said.

For example, players could be penalized while attempting to wake the game from sleep mode while the game was in a loading screen, or simply by pressing a nearby button when simply trying to preview an item it.

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

Epic said it agreed to the FTC agreement because it wants “to be at the forefront of consumer protection and to provide the best experience for our players.”

“No developer makes a game with the intention of ending up here,” Epic said.

Over the past two years, Epic has also been embroiled in a high-profile legal battle with Apple to break down the barriers protecting the iPhone App Store, which has grown into one of the world’s largest e-commerce hubs over the past 14 years. After Epic introduced a different payment system in its Fortnite app in August 2020, Apple removed the video from the App Store, sparking a lawsuit that went to court last year.

A federal judge ruled largely in Apple’s favor, in part because she agreed with the iPhone maker’s contention that its exclusive control of the App Store helps protect consumer security and privacy. The verdict is currently being appealed, with a decision expected sometime next year.

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