Fortnite creator Epic Games fined record $520 million by FTC for violating kids’ privacy and deceiving players

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Epic Games has been slammed with a staggering $520 million fine after a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) probe revealed that it had violated children’s privacy and deceived some users into purchasing items they didn’t want in the game Fortnite.

According to the FTC, this was the biggest penalty ever imposed on a gaming company by the regulatory body. Epic Games has agreed to pay the fine in a combined settlement of $245 million and $275 million.

Two settlements were made public on Monday, the first of which involved the collection of personal data from Fortnite players under the age of 13 and keeping the voice and text chat settings in the game on by default.

The second settlement was regarding “dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases”. Under this, Epic Games is accused of making it easy for gamers to inadvertently purchase skins when previewing them and making it difficult for them to locate the refund option when they wish to undo the transaction.

Reports from several players also claim that after the refund, the company used to ban the accounts for several days and lock out players who paid for contents previously in the game.

According to NBC News, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Samuel Levine said, “Epic put children and teens at risk through its lax privacy practices, and cost consumers millions in illegal charges through its use of dark patterns.”

“Under the proposed orders announced today, the company will be required to change its default settings, return millions to consumers, and pay a record-breaking penalty for its privacy abuses,” he added.

Epic Games acknowledged the settlement and said, “No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”

Recently, Epic Games also faced scrutiny over Fortnite in Canada as several parents filed a lawsuit against the company in the Canadian Supreme Court (SC). According to the parents, their children were addicted to Fortnite and blamed the creators for knowingly developing a highly addictive game. Justice Sylvain concluded that the allegations were worth taking forward given the risks and danger that could arise from the game.