Monday, December 19, 2022

Epic Settles With FTC Over COPPA Complaint

FTC (complaint PDF, Hacker News):

The Federal Trade Commission has secured agreements requiring Epic Games, Inc., creator of the popular video game Fortnite, to pay a total of $520 million in relief over allegations the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and deployed design tricks, known as dark patterns, to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases.

Half of this will go to customers and half to the FTC.

Michael Love:

Ironically, the fact that they were able to get away with doing this even when Fortnite was still in the App Store kind of proves Tim Sweeney’s point.

(I’m sure this will be disingenuously weaponized the other way - “Epic wants to avoid App Review so they can be evil’er” - but you can’t throw a brick in the top app charts without hitting a dozen other companies that use dark patterns to dupe people into unintentional purchases)

Even Gaia GPS now has a dark pattern where it takes over the whole screen, and there’s seemingly no way to get back into the app without purchasing an IAP. (I force-quit and relaunch it.)


Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate. The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.


Developers who create a teen-rated or mature-rated game can no longer assume that it won’t be deemed to be directed to children, according to the United States’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Younger players who are interested in higher-rated games can find ways to access them.


There have never been pay-to-win or pay-to-progress mechanics in player-versus-player experiences in Fortnite. And we eliminated paid random-item loot boxes in Fortnite: Save the World in 2019.


Update (2023-03-16): FTC (via Hacker News):

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized an order requiring Epic Games, the maker of the Fortnite video game, to pay $245 million to consumers to settle charges that the company used dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases and let children rack up unauthorized charges without any parental involvement.

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