US federal regulators said Monday that video game company Epic Games will pay fines and refunds totaling $520 million to resolve complaints related to children’s privacy.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it has reached an unprecedented settlement in two cases involving Epic Games Inc., which makes the popular Fortnite game.
“Epic used privacy-invading preset settings and deceptive interfaces to mislead Fortnite users, including teens and children,” FTC Chair Leena Khan said in a statement.
The company will refund $245 million to customers who have been victims of so-called “dark patterns” and billing practices.
Dark patterns are deceptive online techniques used to entice users into doing something they did not intend to do.
In this case, “Fortnite’s inconsistent, inconsistent and confusing button configuration caused players to incur unwanted charges with the press of a button,” the FTC elaborated.
For example, players could be charged for trying to wake the game from sleep mode while the game is in the loading screen, or by pressing a nearby button while trying to preview an item, he explained.
“These tactics generated hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges by consumers,” the FTC said.
Epic Games indicated that it agreed to pay to resolve “issues with the previous Fortnite item shop layout and refund system”. The FTC will distribute the money “at its discretion to Epic customers,” according to the company.
The company stressed, “The rules written decades ago do not specify how the gaming ecosystem should operate.”