FTC Sues Fortnite Creator Epic Games for $520 Million for Breaking Child Safety Laws


In December of last year, it was revealed that video game company and creators of Fortnite Epic Games are being sued for $520 million dollars by The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This would be $275 million for violation of the children’s privacy law, and $245 million in refunds for tricking players into making unwanted charges. 


The FTC states that in Fortnite, Epic went against the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by using tricks in their formatting or design, which are called dark patterns. These dark patterns trick players into making accidental purchases. Along with this, Epic will now have to develop strong default settings, where voice and text communications are initially disabled with the creation of an account. This would be where the $275 million charge comes from. The $245 million will be put towards refunds for users who fell victim to Fortnite’s dark patterns and billing system. 

It is important to note that Fortnite is generally a free game upon download with no paywall. However, their illegal marketing strategies come in when opening the Item Shop, which sells cosmetic items like dance moves and different skins that a player can equip. The issue with their billing system is that parents would enter their credit card information only intending to consent to one purchase. But, unbeknownst to them, their information would be saved in the game, giving children the ability to make purchases which were unverified by their parents. 


Communications settings were an issue for children participating as well, as harassment was significantly more prevalent with voice chat being enabled upon opening the game. Players would be in voice chat without knowing how to disable it or turn it off, causing repetitive harassment and trash-talking. Although there is the ability to turn off voice chat, some players may find it difficult to find in the interface. This is especially a concern with younger children who play the game. As a result of all this, Epic Games is ordered to prohibit children under the age of 13 from using voice chat or any other form of communication inside the game. 


Epic Games is in lots of trouble here, and is forced to implement a better system which protects the safety of children, and their parent’s bank accounts. With all of this commotion, players can expect a decent-sized change to Fortnite’s communication and billing systems.