The FTC has ordered Fortnite developer Epic Games to pay $520 million for various infractions.
A $275 million penalty has been imposed for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by failing to obtain consent or notify parents about information being collected, making it difficult for parents to delete collected data.
In an effort to protect young players from bullying, harassment, and harmful issues such as suicide, Epic has also amended its default communication to off.
“The Justice Department takes very seriously its mission to protect consumers’ data privacy rights,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “This proposed order sends a message to all online providers that collecting children’s personal information without parental consent will not be tolerated.”
An Epic fine
In addition to the fine for violating COPPA, the company has also been ordered to issue $245 million in refunds to users who were tricked into making unwanted charges, the largest refund amount ever ordered by the FTC in a gaming case and its largest administrative order in history. The company has been accused of using so-called dark patterns, letting players make charges while attempting to press adjacent buttons or wake the game up from sleep mode, among other things.
The company has also been accused of allowing children to make payments without the consent of cardholders, as well as locking the accounts of customers disputing unauthorised charges with their credit card companies, and warning players they can be banned for life should they make any further disputes even after their accounts were unlocked.
In addition to this, the company has been accused of ignoring complaints from both employees and consumers about wrongful charges, as well as purposefully making the cancel and refund features harder for consumers to find.
“As our complaints note, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan. “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.”
This article was first published on PocketGamer.biz.