The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has hit Fortnite developer Epic Games with a £201million ($245million) fine, due to the company allegedly letting children “rack up unauthorized charges without any parental involvement”.
The order was finalised today (March 14) and states that Epic Games must pay the fine due to “dark patterns” that allegedly tricked players into making unintended game purchases.
The FTC claimed that Epic used design tricks to get players “of all ages” to unintentionally make in-game purchases using real money, with “counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration” that led to unwanted purchases.
The government body also alleged that Epic Games made it easy for children to make in-game purchases without seeking a parent’s permission, and retaliated against customers who disputed unauthorised charges by locking their accounts.
In addition to the £201million fine, the order will ban Epic from continuing to use these dark patterns and stop allowing players to make purchases without consent. Additionally, the Fortnite developer will no longer be able to lock players’ accounts for disputing unauthorised charges with their credit card company.
The FTC voted 4-0 to approve the order, and said the money will be used to refund customers. According to this page, anyone who bought unwanted in-game items, had their accounts locked for disputing unauthorised charges, or had children use their credit card to make similarly unauthorised purchases can seek a refund.
Currently, Epic Games’ fines from the FTC stand at over half a billion dollars, as the company has already agreed to pay £226million ($275million) for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Back in December, Epic Games issued a statement claiming it shares “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”.
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