Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite and Gears of War, has been fined twice in the last 3 month by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for violating players privacy and causing unwanted purchases.
In December 2022, Epic Games was fined a combined total $520 million after the Federal Trade Commission accused the company of separate accounts related to Fortnite, one for violating COPPA related to children’s privacy by collecting personal data without parent or guardian consent, exposing children and teens to potential harassment, and a second related to misleading users into making unwanted purchases while playing the game. COPPA is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.
The FTC also alleged Epic intentionally paired children and teens “with strangers,” exposed them to “dangerous and psychologically traumatizing issues,” and failed to introduce adequate parental control systems.
The order was finalized March 14, 2023 and states that Epic Games must pay the fine due to “dark patterns” that allegedly tricked players into making unintended in-game purchases. Fortnite employed “counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration” that duped players into making unwanted charges with the press of a single button. In addition to the fine, the order will ban Epic from continuing to use these dark patterns and stop allowing players to make purchases without consent. Further, the Fortnite developer will no longer be able to lock players’ accounts for disputing unauthorised charges with their credit card company. The latter behavior proves Epic was aware of the problem, with over 1 million complaints filed.
The FTC said the money will be used to refund customers. According to this FTC page, anyone who bought unwanted in-game items, had their accounts locked for disputing unauthorised charges, or had children use their credit card to make similarly unauthorised purchases can seek a refund now.
The FTC first contacted Epic about these concerns in 2017. The FTC said Epic failed to “cure,” or address, the COPPA violations. The FTC termed Epic’s attempts to deal with the harassment issues as “weak-willed.” The agency obtained Epic internal documents that show they were aware of the problem, but chose not to act.
“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,” Epic said in a statement.
Last week, Epic Games released Chapter 4 Season 2 of Fortnite, an interesting timing so close to the huge fine. The settlement is large, even by the FTC’s standards, but nowhere near the $5 billion fine that Meta, formerly dba Facebook, was ordered to pay in 2019. For context, Epic brings in about $6 Billion annually. Much of that from the ever-expanding Fortnite. Epic Games has eight days from the day the order was finalized to pay the fine in full.
The company also makes Unreal Engine and has mega investments to build a metaverse. Hopefully a safe one.
David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.