The developer of the well-known video game Fortnite has agreed to pay $520 million (£427 million) to settle US regulators’ charges that the game violated user privacy rules and deceived players into making payments.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the company tricked users with “deceptive interfaces” that might prompt purchases even as the game was loading.
Furthermore, it was charged with employing “privacy-invasive” default settings.
“Past designs,” claimed Epic Games.
The business claimed that “no developer develops a game with the objective of ending up here. We agreed to this agreement because we want Epic to lead the way in consumer protection and give our gamers the finest possible experience.
More than 400 million people worldwide play Fortnite, a battle royale game that shot to fame after its 2017 release. Although the game may normally be downloaded for free, it is funded through in-game sales of things like costumes and dance techniques.
Even after making improvements to address internal and public concerns, the game’s producers disregarded rules involving parental consent, according to the FTC, despite the fact that it matched strangers from all over the world for interactive battles and was targeted at children and teenagers.
FTC chair Lina Khan stated that “as our complaints note, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and misleading interfaces that deceived Fortnite users, especially teenagers and minors.”
“Protecting the public, and especially minors, from online privacy invasions and dark patterns is a key concern for the commission, and these enforcement actions make clear to businesses that the FTC is cracking down on these illegal practices,” the commission stated.
The FTC announced Epic would pay $275 million to settle accusations it gathered child and teen data without parental authorization and exposed kids and teens to bullying and harassment by turning on voice and text conversations by default. This is a record fine for the consumer watchdog.
In addition to changing the privacy settings for kids and teenagers, Epic Games agreed to make chat communications off by default.
The business will also make a record payment of $245 million to resolve a different complaint over dishonest billing practices. This money will be used to repay clients.
A “counterintuitive, uneven, and confusing button layout,” according to the FTC, caused hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorised sales.
According to the complaint, the company had resisted altering its design to include a separate confirmation step because it was concerned that doing so “would create ‘friction’,’result in a significant proportion of individuals second-guessing their purchase’, and limit the number of ‘impulse purchases'”.
According to the report, the corporation “purposefully hid cancel and refund elements to make them more difficult to access” and “frozen accounts of customers who contested charges.”
The FTC’s allegations about Epic’s tactics were “not how Fortnite operates,” according to Epic, which claimed that it had been making improvements.
Long-standing industry practices are no longer sufficient, the company stated, adding that it aimed to serve as a model for the rest of the sector. “The laws have not changed, but their application has developed and they are no longer sufficient.