Epic Games Inc., the developer behind the widely popular Fortnite video game, has reached a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations of deceptive practices and children’s privacy violations. As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to compensate affected players and their parents, potentially paving the way for millions in refunds.
In late 2022, the FTC disclosed that Epic Games would reimburse $520 million, including penalties and customer refunds, in connection to complaints surrounding the violation of children’s privacy and manipulative payment methods. This payout is a historic moment, marking the FTC’s “largest refund amount in a gaming case, and the most significant administrative order in its existence.”
A substantial portion of the settlement, $245 million, is allocated for customer refunds, intended to offset some unwanted V-Bucks – the in-game currency of Fortnite – and other virtual item purchases such as costumes or the game’s iconic purple llama loot crates.
Furthermore, Epic Games has been penalized $275 million for allegedly collecting personal details of Fortnite players below 13 years of age without parental consent, setting a new record for an FTC rule breach penalty.
Eligibility and Refund Process
The FTC has outlined the criteria for eligibility for players seeking compensation:
- Users charged in-game currency for undesired items from January 2017 to September 2022.
- Cases where children made unauthorized charges to credit cards between January 2017 and November 2018.
- Users whose accounts were suspended after disputing wrongful charges with credit card firms between January 2017 and September 2022.
To apply for the refund:
- Visit the Fortnite Refund Application Page.
- You will require either a claim number or your unique Epic Account ID.
- Claims must be submitted by January 17, 2024.
How much to expect?
The FTC has indicated that the specific amount a claimant receives depends on various factors, such as the total number of people filing a claim. Although there is no confirmed date for the refunds, the FTC will update its website when more information is available.
For further inquiries or assistance, contact 1-833-915-0880 or email [email protected].
Epic Games’ Response
In response to the allegations and the subsequent settlement, Epic Games revealed that they have instituted additional measures to avert unintentional purchases. They have directed affected parties and the general public to the FTC’s website for further details.
Furthermore, as part of the FTC’s stipulations, Epic Games has been mandated to institute robust privacy default settings, particularly for children and teens. This includes ensuring that both voice and text communications are switched off by default, providing an extra layer of security and privacy for its younger player base.
The Broader Implications
The settlement between Epic Games and the FTC not only serves as a landmark case in the online gaming industry but also sets a precedent for how companies manage user data and in-app purchases. The hefty fines and public scrutiny reiterate the importance of responsible digital practices, especially when minors are involved.
Regulation and the Gaming Industry
While gaming has transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry, regulations have, at times, struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancements. The Epic Games case has brought to light the potential pitfalls companies may face if they don’t prioritize user experience and transparency in their monetization strategies.
The settlement between the FTC and Epic Games underscores the importance of online privacy, particularly for younger users, and the necessity for transparency in in-game purchases. As millions of affected players and their guardians gear up to claim their refunds, this case serves as a reminder and a benchmark for online gaming platforms and their commitment to player safety and transparency.