March 2, 2024

Epic Games will pay more than $500mn in a pair of settlements with the US Federal Trade Commission over claims that the Fortnite developer illegally collected data on children and manipulated millions of players into making unintentional purchases.

The payouts mark the biggest win yet by regulators tackling so-called “dark patterns” in apps and games, which trick users and players into making decisions that benefit the company, often at the individual’s expense.

In two separate legal complaints, the FTC accused Epic of failing to obtain parental consent from Fortnite players under the age of 13, in breach of US child protection laws, and of a “counterintuitive, inconsistent and confusing” layout to its in-game store of virtual items that “led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button”.

“As our complaints note, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” said Lina Khan, FTC chair. “Protecting the public, and especially children, from online privacy invasions and dark patterns is a top priority for the commission.”

Epic did not admit wrongdoing as part of its settlements.

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