Epic Games has recently been fined by the FTC and have been ordered to pay out $520 million. The first one will cost $275 million for violating COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and the second fine is for $245 million for using deceptive design tricks to amplify microtransactions.
FTC will use this money to issue refunds as well as resolve concerns related to children’s privacy in Fortnite at their own discretion. FTC’s top priority is to protect children from online privacy invasions. Therefore, they are coming down on these unlawful practices.
The unlawful practices include the following: usage of dark patterns to trick players into making unintended purchases. This has been done through “counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration”. It has also learned that account holders are being charged without prior authorisation.
Another aspect that has been caught in the fire is Fortnite’s voice chat settings. FTC states that Fortnite was urged to change the settings for players to opt-in for voice chat, but the company resisted even though the children were falling victim to harassment. Therefore, Fortnite is now required to disable voice and text chat for children under the age of 13.
Epic has responded to all the issues that were listed in a lengthy press release. It has gone over every issue and provided their solutions. For microtransactions, the company stated the following: there are no pay-to-win or pay-to-progress mechanics in player-versus-player experiences, random Item loot boxes have not been present in the game since 2019. It has issued return tickets to enable self-service refunds. The company also introduced instant cancellations for purchases and a hold to purchase mechanic.
In terms of children privacy, Epic Games has introduced parental controls in the main Fortnite lobby itself and in the Epic account portal. Parental controls would need a PIN to send and accept friend requests and enable parents to authorize purchases before they are made. Children under the age of 13 have a daily spending limit. Cabined accounts have been introduced recently to provide a safe and inclusive experience to young players.