In a significant development, parents in the United States are now eligible to claim refunds for in-game purchases made without their consent in the widely popular game Fortnite. The move comes after the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accused the game’s developer, Epic Games, of employing deceptive tactics to induce unintended purchases and infringing upon user privacy. As a part of this settlement, Epic Games agreed to pay a whopping $245 million in refunds in the year 2022.
The FTC has embarked on the task of reaching out to approximately 37 million individuals to inform them about the compensation process. Fortnite, a free-to-play video game, has garnered a massive player base of over 400 million users worldwide. Its revenue primarily stems from in-game purchases made by players during their gaming experience.
The FTC’s allegations revolve around Epic Games allegedly employing “deceptive interfaces” that could trigger purchases while the game was loading. Additionally, they accused the company of default settings that breached users’ privacy. In total, Epic Games reached a settlement of $520 million with the FTC to address these concerns.
This comprehensive settlement encompasses a $275 million fine relating to Fortnite’s data collection practices, including data collected from users under the age of 13, without parental consent. It’s worth noting that this fine represents the largest penalty ever imposed by the FTC for a rule violation. The remainder of the settlement will be allocated as refunds to affected users.
While there is currently no similar agreement in place for the UK, Matthew Weissinger, Epic Games’ Vice President of Marketing, has previously indicated the company’s commitment to refunding parents in the UK whose children made unauthorized purchases.
Under the terms of the US settlement, refunds will cover various in-game purchases, including outfits, loot boxes, and Fortnite’s virtual currency known as V-Bucks. Those contacted by the FTC will have until January 2024 to submit their refund requests.
This window for claims encompasses individuals in the US who believe they were charged for in-game items they did not intend to purchase between January 2017 and September 2022. It also includes cases where children made purchases using their parents’ credit cards, provided these transactions occurred between January 2017 and November 2018. Furthermore, individuals whose Fortnite accounts were rendered inaccessible following complaints to their credit card companies about unauthorized charges are also eligible for compensation.
Epic Games has been proactive in addressing these issues. Following the settlement announcement, they introduced various measures to combat unintended in-game purchases, including parental controls, spending limits for players under the age of 13, and default high privacy settings for minors.
In a statement, Epic Games acknowledged that while the laws have remained unchanged, their application has evolved, necessitating a proactive stance toward consumer protection. The company emphasized its commitment to providing the best possible experience for its players and complying with evolving industry standards.
For those seeking compensation, it’s important to note that the distribution process is being managed by the FTC, and affected players should directly contact the regulator through its official website. As this development unfolds, it remains to be seen if similar refund programs will be initiated for Fortnite players in other regions, including the UK.