Video game company Epic Games has been ordered to pay $520m in penalties and refunds to settle complaints involving children’s privacy and deceptive practices that tricked players into making purchases. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the record-breaking settlements for two cases against Epic Games, the maker of popular game Fortnite, on Monday.
According to the FTC, Epic Games violated privacy laws by collecting personal information on Fortnite players under the age of 13 without informing their parents or obtaining their consent. The company has agreed to pay a fine of $275m, the largest penalty ever issued by the FTC for breaking its rules.
In addition to the fine, Epic Games will also be refunding $245m to customers who were tricked into making purchases through the use of “dark patterns” and deceptive billing practices. These techniques, known as “dark patterns,” use deceptive online tactics to manipulate users into doing things they did not intend to do. The FTC stated that Fortnite’s confusing and inconsistent button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges with the press of a single button.
In a statement, Epic Games said it was making the payment to resolve concerns over “past designs of the Fortnite item shop and refund systems.” The company added that the laws governing the gaming industry have evolved and “longstanding industry practices are no longer enough.” The FTC will distribute the money to affected Epic customers at its discretion.