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Epic Games handed historic $540 million fine

The FTC penalise Epic Games for lax privacy settings and tricking children into spending real money in Fortnite.

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While Epic Games are currently busy handing out free games on their storefront as part of their Holiday sales, soon they will also have to hand over a lot of money to the US authorities.

The Federal Trade Commision (FTC), whose job is to protect the American consumers, have fined Epic Games a $275 million penalty for violating children's privacy law and have at the same time ordered the Fortnite developer to pay $245 million in refunds.

According to the FTC, Epic Games "violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and deployed design tricks, known as dark patterns, to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases."

In a press release, FTC Chair Lina M. Khan says that Epic used "privacy-invasive default settings" and will now be required to "adopt strong privacy default settings for children and teens." This includes muting the microphone and disabling text messages by default for minors."

At the same time the FTC accuses Epic of using so-called "dark patterns" making it easy for children to accidently buy in-game items for real money, citing "Fortnite's counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration." Up until 2018 children and teens could buy the in-game currency V-Bucks with just a single click without any authorization from parents or card holders.

FTC also states that Epic ignored more than "one million user complaints" about being wrongfully charted, and that "Epic purposefully obscured cancel and refund features to make them more difficult to find."

The combined $540 million penalty is the largest in the history of the The Federal Trade Commision, which was established through the Federal Trade Commission Act way back in 1914. The FTC is currently also reviewing Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard, and is expected to challenge the deal in court.


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