The maker of the popular video game Fortnite agreed to pay $520 million to settle allegations by US authorities that it violated children’s privacy laws and misled users into making purchases.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) indicated that the company Epic Games has used “deceptive interfaces” that could induce purchases while the game was loading.
He also accused the company of using default settings that “invade privacy”.
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Epic Games blamed the “past designs” of the game, which unites strangers from around the world in interactive battles.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending here”the company said. “We accept this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players”.
Fortnite, a battle royale game that became a global sensation upon its release in 2017, features more than 400 million players in the world. It’s usually free to download, and it pays off by selling items like costumes and dance moves during gameplay.
The FTC claimed that while it was targeted at children and teens, its developers did not follow the rules about parental consenteven after making changes to address internal and public concerns.
“As our complaints point out, Epic used privacy-invading default settings and interfaces that misled Fortnite users, including teens and children.”said FTC chairwoman Lina Khan.
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“Protecting the public, and especially children, from online invasions of privacy and dark patrons is one of the commission’s top priorities, and these enforcement actions make it clear to companies that the FTC is taking action. strong against these illegal practices”.
Epic will pay $275 million, a record fine to the FTC, to respond to allegations that it collected data from children and teens without parental consent and exposed them to bullying and harassment by turning on voice and text communications by default.
Epic Games has agreed to change its privacy settings for minors, as well as turn off chat communications by default.
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The firm will also pay a record US$245 million, which will go towards reimburse customersto resolve a separate complaint about deceptive billing practices.
The FTC alerted to a “contradictory, inconsistent and confusing button configuration”which generated hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized purchases.
The instance said that the company had resisted changing its design to add a separate commit stepalleging that “it would add ‘friction’, ‘result in a decent amount of people doubting their purchase’ and reduce the number of ‘impulse purchases’”according to the complaint.
Authorities said the company blocked the accounts of customers who disputed the charges and “deliberately hid the cancel and refund features to make them harder to find”.
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Epic said it had made changes and that the practices detailed in the FTC complaints did not align with the way Fortnite works.
“The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and traditional industry practices are no longer sufficient”the company said, adding that it hoped to become a model for the rest of the industry.
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