Epic Games, the creator of the global succubus kids’ game Fortnite, will have to pony up $520 million to the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC announced in a statement Monday.
The agency accused Epic of violating children’s privacy law as well as changing default privacy settings to enable data collection. The settlement is split between $275 million for the actual violations and $245 million in refunds to users.
“Epic put children and teens at risk through its lax privacy practices, and cost consumers millions in illegal charges through its use of dark patterns,” Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said. “Under the proposed orders announced today, the company will be required to change its default settings, return millions to consumers, and pay a record-breaking penalty for its privacy abuses.”
Epic is accused of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by failing to notify parents and obtaining their consent for the collection of user data from Fortnite. The violations also include the licensing of marketing of the game and its “toys and merchandise,” as well as player support communications.
The FTC claims that, additionally, Epic also made parents who requested their children’s personal information “jump through reasonable hoops,” with the company failing to provide the requested data.
In a separate administrative complaint, the FTC alleges that Epic used illegal “dark patterns” to trick players into making purchases without authorization or parental involvement. These patterns include a “counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing” button configuration that does not issue a warning before executing a purchase.
Following the settlement, Epic Games released a statement regarding their policies and copping to overall changes that need to be made.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of it ending up here,” the gaming giants said. “We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
The company also insisted that within the past few years it hase been making changes to ensure that its “ecosystem” works fluently with players and regulators.
While a $500 million fine sounds massive, the general consensus among users is that Epic—which has made nearly $10 billion since 2018—will merely shrug it off as the cost of doing business exactly the way it wants to do it.
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