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Epic Games to Pay $245 Million FTC Fine for Using ‘Dark Patterns’ to Exploit Young Gamers

Credit: Epic Games

Epic Games, the developer behind the highly popular game Fortnite, has been ordered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to pay a $245 million fine. The fine comes as part of a wider $520 million settlement that was announced in December 2021, relating to allegations that the company used “dark patterns” to make it easy for players to make unintended purchases of in-game items.

The FTC found that Epic Games used button layouts that were inconsistent and counterintuitive, making it easy for players, including children, to make purchases without requiring parental consent. The company was also accused of locking or threatening to lock the accounts of customers who disputed unauthorized charges with credit card companies.

Under the order, Epic Games is prohibited from charging consumers using dark patterns or without affirmative consent, and from blocking accounts after unauthorized charge disputes. The $245 million fine will be distributed by the FTC to affected consumers in the United States, though the agency has yet to determine the refund process.

This is the latest legal activity that Epic Games is involved in, as it continues to fight a major lawsuit against Apple over App Store rules. The lawsuit is still passing through a lengthy appeals process.

The FTC’s action against Epic Games highlights the importance of fair and transparent practices in the gaming industry. It serves as a reminder to all game developers to ensure that their products are designed with consumer protection in mind, particularly when it comes to in-game purchases.

The use of “dark patterns” has become a growing concern in recent years, with companies accused of using manipulative tactics to encourage users to make purchases or take actions they may not have intended to. This has led to increased scrutiny from regulators, with the FTC taking a particularly proactive stance in this area.

In conclusion, the FTC’s fine against Epic Games should serve as a warning to all game developers to prioritize consumer protection in their designs. It is also a reminder of the importance of transparency and fair practices in the gaming industry, and the need for regulators to take action when companies fall short of these standards.