Microsoft isn’t the only one on the FTC’s radar. The US regulator has just ordered Epic Games to pay $245 million in refunds to players for unwanted purchases following a prolonged controversy surrounding predatory microtransaction practices.
The US Federal Trade Commission recently announced that it has ordered Epic Games to pay the amount as part of a settlement deal. According to the FTC, Epic used "dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases."
Epic Games is being fined a total of $520 million for allegations of privacy violations and unintentional charges. $245 million will go be paid directly to the FTC, which will then issue refunds to players who have been affected by the unwanted charges.
According to its decision, the FTC said that the publisher of Fortnite employed a "myriad design tricks known as "dark patterns" – has charged consumers for such items without first obtaining their express informed consent, and then has banned consumers from accessing previously paid-for content when they have disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card providers."
"Millions of consumers have complained to Epic about these unfair practices and disputed Epic’s unauthorized charges with their credit card providers. Epic’s own employees also have repeatedly raised concerns about these practices and recommended measures to address them. Yet despite consumers’ repeated complaints and employees’ concerns, Epic has persisted in its unlawful conduct."
The FTC also said that Epic Games locked the accounts of players who disputed the credit card charges. Users have reported that in-game interfaces made it very easy to accidentally make purchases, and getting refunds was nearly impossible.
Aside from the huge fine, the FTC also requires the game developer to make changes so that players will not accidentally rack up charges. Players now have to hold a button to purchase something from the in-game item shop instead of just pressing a single button.
The order also prohibits Epic Games "from charging consumers through the use of dark patterns or from otherwise charging consumers without obtaining their affirmative consent. Additionally, the order bars Epic from blocking consumers from accessing their accounts for disputing unauthorized charges."
Fortnite was released in 2017 and has gone on to become one of the most popular games in the industry. The free-to-play battle royale’s popularity is partly due to its availability on almost every platform including mobile phones.
The game also has an endless stream of crossovers and collaborations with popular pop-culture icons. Fortnite even hosts virtual concerts for musical icons such as Travis Scott and Arianna Grande. Epic Games earns millions of dollars in microtransactions from Fortnite. This allows the developer to constantly provide players with updates, helping the game evolve into what it is now.