Brittany Gates

Reporting video games and tech news from an entrepreneur angle

FTC Fines Epic Games $500+ Million Dollars

ftc fines epic games
The FTC fines the Fortnite creator a half a billion dollars for privacy violations regarding children and tricking customers into purchases.

The FTC fines Epic Games over a half a billion dollars for privacy violations and tricking customers into making purchases they didn’t want.

FTC Fines Epic Games: The Details

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lays out why the government agency hit the Fortnite creator with such a heavy fine here. In short, Epic Games has to pay $520 million dollars “in relief over allegations the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and deployed design tricks, known as dark patterns, to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases.”

The fine for violating the COPPA rule comes from “a proposed federal court order filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC.” And now Epic Games holds the record for paying the largest fine for violating the rule. Achievement attained! (I know that’s a snarky reply but I had to.)

In addition to paying the fine Epic Games has to “…adopt strong privacy default settings for children and teens.” That includes “ensuring that voice and text communications are turned off by default.”

There there’s the $245 million fine for the unintentional purchases. Epic Games will have “to refund consumers for its dark patterns and billing practices.” And this fine is also the largest for the FTC in a gaming case. Also, it’s the largest administrative order in history. Again, the Fortnite creator records another achievement!

How Did Epic Games Violate COPPA?

According to the FTC “Epic violated the COPPA Rule by collecting personal information from children under 13 who played Fortnite, a child-directed online service, without notifying their parents or obtaining their parents’ verifiable consent. Epic also violated the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair practices by enabling real-time voice and text chat communications for children and teens by default.”

The FTC states even Epic Games employees alerted the developer about the default settings: “Epic employees expressed concern about its default settings. As early as 2017, Epic employees urged the company to change the default settings to require users to opt in for voice chat, citing concern about the impact on children in particular. Despite this and reports that children had been harassed, including sexually, while playing the game, the company resisted turning off the default settings. And while it eventually added a button allowing users to turn voice chat off, Epic made it difficult for users to find, according to the complaint.”

More Information About The Fine For The Unintentional Purchases

According to the FTC “…Epic used dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases and let children rack up unauthorized charges without any parental involvement.”

In the complaint are the following allegations:

  • Used dark patterns to trick users into making purchases
  • Charged account holders without authorization
  • Blocked access to purchased content

Finally, the government agency says “Epic ignored more than one million user complaints and repeated employee concerns that “huge” numbers of users were being wrongfully charged. In fact, Epic’s changes only made the problem worse, the FTC alleged. Using internal testing, Epic purposefully obscured cancel and refund features to make them more difficult to find.”

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