Fortnite developer Epic Games has been ordered to pay out $245 million in refunds to settle accusations of using "dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases," the Federal Trade Commission said this week in a release. This decision follows a settlement package reached in December that saw Epic Games being fined a total of $520 million in response to allegations of privacy violations and unintentional charges. The $245 million to be paid by Epic Games will go to the FTC which will then use the money to issue refunds to those who feel that they've been affected by these allegedly misleading sales practices.
In the release issued on Wednesday, the FTC alleges that Epic Games used "dark patterns" with the intent of getting consumers of all ages -- notably children -- to make unintentional purchases in the game. This was done so through the use of single-button purchases and the lack of requirements for any kind of parental approval when purchasing something. Basically, kids were able to head to the Item Shop and buy things with the press of a button, a practice which could easily rack up quite the sum if a younger player was left unattended. Another grievance the FTC had with Epic Games was that the Fortnite creator was said to have locked accounts who disputed these charges with credit card companies.
To that end, the FTC is now making Epic Games pay out the $245 million in refunds and is forcing the company to change its business practices in regards to how purchases are made and disputed. We've already seen some of these changes in effect previously though things like Epic Games making it so that players have to hold a button to buy something from the Item Shop now instead of a single press, but the FTC is now formalizing the need for those kinds of changes. Epic Games addressed these changes and more back in December in a response to the FTC situation wherein it laid out plans to update Fortnite's Item Shop flow and a reaffirmed "player-centric approach to building Fortnite."
"Under the FTC's order, Epic must pay $245 million, which will be used to provide refunds to consumers," the FTC's release said. "The order also prohibits Epic 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."
The FTC said to head here for more info on the refund process if you think you're owed a refund because of these Item Shop practices.