Epic Games, the maker of the popular game Fortnite, must pay $245 million to customers affected by practices that allegedly tricked players into making unwanted purchases.
The refunds are part of a larger settlement the game maker made with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that totals $520 million in penalties and refunds. As The Dallas Express reported late last year, the FTC claims that, alongside using deceptive billing practices, Epic Games violated the privacy of its customers under the age of 13 by collecting data on them without parental consent.
Since its release in 2017, Fortnite has become a staple in the gaming community, with millions of players worldwide.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the game is free to play after purchase but includes a wide array of optional paid items, such as llamas, cosmetics, or battle passes.
It is this ability to make microtransactions throughout the course of gameplay that led to complaints against Epic Games and an investigation by the FTC.
“As our complaints note, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” said Lina M. Khan, FTC chair, in a news release. “Protecting the public, and especially children, from online privacy invasions and dark patterns is a top priority for the Commission, and these enforcement actions make clear to businesses that the FTC is cracking down on these unlawful practices.”
There are three groups that are eligible for refunds, according to the FTC.
- Parents whose children made unauthorized credit card purchases in the Epic Games Store between January 2017 and November 2018.
- Fortnite gamers who were charged V-Bucks for unwanted in-game items between January 2017 and September 2022.
- Fortnite gamers whose accounts were disabled between January 2017 and September 2022 after they tried to dispute unwanted charges with their credit card company.
An email will be sent to those affected outlining the refund process, per the FTC. Updates will be posted here.
Epic Games has responded to the complaints and FTC settlement by making changes to its payment practices and adding safeguards to protect against unintended purchases.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here,” Epic Games’ press release stated. “The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation. … Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate.”
“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 press release continued.