Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, was handed the Federal Trade Commission’s largest penalty for breaking a rule. The developer was fined $520 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and for misleading millions of gamers into making unintended purchases in-game using “Dark Patterns.”
Fortnite is completely free to play. It also makes billions from in-game purchases like digital skins for characters and “Battle Passes” which provide useful items as players spend more time playing.
The FTC released a statement describing Epic’s violations. It stated that Epic’s “counterintuitive and inconsistent button configuration led players to incur unwelcome charges based upon the pressing of a single key.” This included when players believed the game was in sleep mode or loading screen.
The FTC stated that these tactics resulted in consumers being charged unauthorized amounts of hundreds of millions of dollars. Fortnite lets children purchase in-game currency without the consent of their parents.
Parents complained that their children “racked up hundreds” of dollars in charges before realizing Epic had charged their credit cards without permission.
Epic responded to the penalty by stating that its application had changed while the laws had remained unchanged. That long-standing industry practices needed to be revised.
Epic agreed to this agreement to ensure that our players have the best experience and consumer protection. $245 million of the $520 million fine will be reserved for customer refunds.