- Aug 17, 2014
Epic Games will pay over half a billion dollars to settle two Federal Trade Commission complaints regarding the company's use of children's private information and its use of "dark patterns" to encourage accidental in-game purchases. The penalties—which the FTC says are some of the largest imposed in the organization's history—also come with imposed changes to the way Epic handles purchases and player interactions in its online games.
The FTC's first complaint [PDF] alleged that Fortnite "failed to comply with the COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) Rule’s parental notice, consent, review, and deletion requirements." The alleged violations included turning voice and text chat features on by default for young players, as well as publicly broadcasting their account names in the game.
Epic has recently changed those policies, implementing default settings for players under 18 that limit chat, hide usernames, and allow joining of parties by "invite only." Epic also pointed to this month's rollout of "cabined accounts," which limits full access to online features for young children's accounts until they are verified by an adult.
In a separate complaint [PDF], the FTC said that Epic often charged Fortnite players for in-game items without their "express informed consent." The use of "design tricks known as 'dark patterns'" led to "millions of complaints" to Epic and disputes of unauthorized charges with credit card providers, according to the FTC.