The company behind one the of the most popular video games will pay over half a billion dollars in fines, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Epic Games will pay penalties to compensate for violations of children’s privacy regulations as well as the use of “dark patterns,” or design choices that make accidental purchases easier, in Fortnite.
The settlement is divided into two parts. The $275 million penalty for violating Children Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) regulations is the largest ever under the statute, according to the agency. The violations include collecting personal data of children without parental consent. Under the agreement, Epic must disable in-game voice and text chat options without parental consent and delete information that violates COPPA that was collected prior to the settlement.
The company will also pay $245 million in remunerations for the alleged dark patterns that facilitated accidental purchase of in-game items, according to the agency. Per the press release, confusing controls meant that “players could be charged while attempting to wake the game from sleep mode, while the game was in a loading screen, or by pressing an adjacent button while attempting simply to preview an item.”
The agency also alleged that Epic would lock the accounts of those who disputed charges through their credit card company, locking them out of all paid content that they intended to purchase.
Epic allegedly ignored internal complaints about both the privacy practices and the dark patterns, according to the agency.
In their response, Epic said ” No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here….The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”