After the lawsuit filed against Microsoft for the acquisition of Activision, the Federal Trade Commission has imposed two hefty $520 million fines on Epic Games in total for malpractices in Fortnite against video gamers, and in particular those under the age of 18.
The FTC said Epic will pay a $275 million fine for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and $245 million to repay consumers tricked into making unwanted charges. Agency Says Epic Violated COPPA by Collecting Personal Information of Fortnite Players Under the Age of 13 without notifying parents or obtaining verifiable consent from a guardian. It is also alleged that Epic has violated the FTC Act by enabling le by default voice and text communications real-time for children and adolescents, with the result that some players have been bullied, threatened, harassed and exposed to dangerous and psychologically traumatic problems. Epic will now be prohibited from enabling voice and text communications for children and teenagers unless consent is provided through a privacy setting.
In a separate complaint, the FTC alleged that Epic used “obscure billing models and practices” to get players of all ages to do unwanted purchases and allowing children to rack up unauthorized charges without parental involvement: “Fortnite’s counter-intuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration has led to players incurring unwanted charges based on a single button press,” the FTC said. “For example, players may be charged while attempting to wake the game from sleep mode, while the title is on a loading screen, or by pressing an adjacent button while simply attempting to preview an item.” Until 2018, Epic allowed children to buy Fortnite in-game currency by simply pressing buttons without requiring any parental or cardholder action or consent. The FTC said Epic ignored more than a million user complaints about players being deceptively charged.
The FTC declares that Epic has blocked the accounts of players who disputed charges unauthorized with their credit card companies, meaning they were barred from accessing any content they previously purchased. “As the complaints point out, Epic used privacy invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces they have duped Fortnite users, including adolescents and childrensaid FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan.
Epic Games reached an agreement to pay $520 million in total, and agreed to the terms “because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.” The company then added: “The laws have not changed, but their enforcement has evolved and the established industry practices are no longer sufficient. The old status quo for in-game commerce and privacy has changed and many of the practices of the developers should be reconsidered. In recent years, we have made changes to ensure that our ecosystem meets the expectations of our players and regulators. We share the principles underpinning fairness, transparency, and privacy that the FTC applies and the practices it references in the The FTC’s complaints don’t reflect how Fortnite works“.
Meanwhile, Phil Spencer has promised battle with the FTC for the lawsuit filed against Microsoft.