Historic agreement that has been achieved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with Epic Games. The US agency has agreed with the company to pay $520 million in compensation for allegations that the owner of Fortnite violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Rather, Epic Games tricked millions of players into making unwanted purchases.
Compensation is divided into two formats. On the one hand we have the fine for violating the law, amounting to 275 million dollars, the highest obtained by the FTC. On the other, it will be 245 million dollars to reimburse players for their information concealment behavior during battle royale purchases.
In the same way, Epic is required to modify its privacy settings for teenagers and children, as well as the default suspension of voice and text chat. Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta has noted that “this proposed order sends a message to all online providers that the collection of personal information from children without parental consent will not be tolerated.” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, is even tougher:
“Epic put children and teens at risk through its lax privacy practices and cost consumers millions in illegal charges through the use of dark patterns. Under proposed orders announced today, the company will be required to change its default settings, return millions to consumers and pay an unprecedented fine for their privacy abuses.”
What are dark patterns?
That is a big question and one that we are going to explain below. In essence, the FTC means that Fortnite contains a “contradictory, inconsistent and confusing button configuration” which led to “consumers of all ages making unwanted in-game purchases.”
Case in point is that “players may be charged while attempting to wake the game from sleep mode, while the game is in a loading screen, or by pressing an adjacent button while attempting to simply preview an item.” Consequently, “children were allowed to rack up unauthorized charges without parental involvement.”
The FTC notes that Until 2018 it was possible to buy V-Bucks in Fortnite without any consent of a card holder. In addition, the institution accuses Epic Games of blocking the accounts of players who alleged unauthorized payments to their credit card companies. “Epic deliberately concealed the cancellation and refund features to make them harder to find,” the FTC alleges.
Therefore, from now on Epic Games will be prohibited from charging without an affirmative consent of the consumer, as well as the removal of dark patterns and the blocking of accounts.
The FTC’s accusations do not end here. Violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act led to the collection of “personal information from children under the age of 13 who played Fortnitewithout notifying his parents or obtaining verifiable consent from his parents.”
In the event that parents want to delete their children’s personal information in Fortnite, Epic Games would “pull them through unreasonable hoops and sometimes fail to honor such requests.” In addition, the default voice and text communication has caused “children and adolescents to have been intimidated, threatened, harassed and exposed to dangerous and psychologically traumatic problems, such as suicide.”
Therefore, the FTC prohibits Epic Games from enabling both chats without parental consent, both to children and adolescents. All personal information collected must be deleted, it will have to “establish a comprehensive privacy program that addresses the issues identified in the FTC complaint, and obtain regular independent audits.”