Fortnite-maker to pay $520 million over violation of US child privacy laws

Epic Games agreed to pay $275 million for the chat room problems, and another $245 million to resolve 'dark patterns'



Photos: AFP
Photos: AFP

By AFP

Published: Tue 20 Dec 2022, 10:35 AM

Epic Games, the maker of video-game blockbuster Fortnite, agreed to pay $520 million to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday for violating child privacy laws and duping minors and adults to make unintended purchases online.

The FTC said that the settlements from one of the biggest names in video gaming set records, with Epic found responsible for knowingly targeting under-13 players of Fortnite, and subjecting children to harassment and trauma in chat rooms.

In its complaint, the FTC said that Epic was aware that many children were playing Fortnite and collected their information without parental consent, as is required by US law.

"Even when Epic obtained actual knowledge that particular Fortnite players were under 13, Epic took no steps to comply with [US law]," the FTC complaint alleged.

The FTC also accused Epic of setting online chat defaults that allowed children and teens to play with strangers, subjecting them to potential harassment.

"Children and teens have been bullied, threatened, harassed, and exposed to dangerous and psychologically traumatising issues such as suicide while on Fortnite," the FTC said.

For these violations, Epic agreed to pay $275 million and is now prohibited from enabling chats unless parents of users under 13 or teenage users give their direct consent.

In a separate complaint, Epic was accused of engaging in something called dark patterns — the practice of tricking users into making unwanted purchases or opting-in to certain settings, without their knowledge.

The FTC said Epic "let children rack up unauthorised charges without any parental involvement", among other violations.

The commission also alleged that Epic made refunds or cancellation requests deliberately hard: executing and punishing users who questioned payments.

The commission said the company agreed to pay $245 million in consumer refunds to resolve that complaint.

In a statement, Epic said that "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," it added.

Epic said it had made changes since the infractions to meet "the expectations of our players and regulators", and that the practices referenced in the FTC's complaints are not how Fortnite currently operates.

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