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FTC finalizes $245 million fine against Epic over Fortnite sales practices

The FTC has fined Epic over claims the company used "dark patterns" in Fortnite to trick players into spending.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

March 15, 2023

2 Min Read
A screenshot from the latest season of Fortnite showing characters traversing a neon-drenched urban sprawl

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has finalized an order requiring Fortnite maker Epic Games to pay $245 million to customers.

The payout is part of a broader settlement Epic agreed with the FTC last year to resolve concerns related to shop practices and refund systems the studio had previously implemented in Fortnite.

Specifically, the FTC claimed Epic used "dark patterns" to trick players into making unwanted purchases, letting minors accumulate unauthorized charges without any parental involvement.

Discussing the situation last year, Epic suggested it never intended to mislead players, and said that all game developers should rethink how they implement payment flows in favor of "practices that provide the largest amount of clarity to players when they make purchase decisions."

"No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here. The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount. Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate," wrote Epic in December 2022. 

"The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. 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 FTC takes issue with "design tricks" present in Fortnite

In an update shared on the FTC website, the regulator said that Epic deployed "a variety of design tricks" to encourage users of all ages to make unintended in-game purchases.

"Fortnite's counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button. The company also made it easy for children to make purchases while playing Fortnite without requiring any parental consent," wrote the FTC outlining a complaint it filed in December last year.

The FTC also claimed that Epic locked the accounts of customers who disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card companies.

The $245 million being paid out by Epic will be used to provide refunds to consumers, while the order will prevent the company from using "dark patterns" moving forward or charging consumers without obtaining their affirmative consent. It will also bar Epic from blocking customers from accessing their accounts for disputing unauthorized charges.

As detailed in December 2022, Epic has also agreed to pay an additional $275 million penalty to settle FTC allegations that the company violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act Rule.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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