Epic Games, creators of the hugely popular video game Fortnite, was this week handed its largest rule violation penalty by the Federal Trade Commission.
The developer was fined $520 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and tricking millions of gamers into making unintended in-game purchases using a technique called “dark patterns.”
Fortnite is free to play and makes billions of dollars through in-game purchases such as digital skins for players’ characters and seasonal “Battle Passes” that provide useful items as a user spends more time playing the game.
In a press release detailing Epic’s violations, the FTC said the game’s “counter-intuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration caused players to incur unwanted costs from pressing a single button,” even when players thought the game is in sleep mode or in a loading screen.
“These tactics resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized consumer charges,” the FTC said.
Fortnite allowed children to purchase its in-game currency “without any action or consent required from parents or cardholders.” Parents complained that their kids “racked up hundreds of dollars in fees before realizing Epic had charged their credit card without their consent.”
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“The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and longstanding industry practices are no longer sufficient,” Epic said in a statement in response to the penalty. “We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
Of the $520 million fine, $245 million will be reserved for customer refunds.
Are you eligible for a Fortnite refund?
Three groups can expect a refund:
- Parents whose children made unauthorized purchases from the Epic Games Store between January 2017 and November 2018
- Players who were charged Fortnite in-game currency for items they did not intend to purchase between January 2017 and September 2022
- Players who have disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card companies and had their accounts suspended as a result
When will the FTC’s Fortnite refunds be paid out?
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