Have you ever swiped or flicked a button and ended up being charged for something you didn’t want? This is what has happened to millions of Fortnite players, said Federal Trade Commission attorney James Doty.
“The configuration of the buttons within Fortnite was so confusing and inconsistent that it was very easy for users to overcharge for items they didn’t want,” he says. These buttons buy items. And if a user is viewing an item and accidentally presses an adjacent button, they will be immediately charged for the item without going back.”
Of the $520 million settlement from Epic Games, $245 million will go towards refunding Fortnite consumers who the FTC says were scammed into charging unwanted fees.
The FTC has identified three categories of consumers eligible for a refund:
Parents whose children made an unauthorized credit card purchase on the Epic Games Store between January 2017 and November 2018.
– Fortnite players who were charged in-game currency (V-Bucks) for unwanted in-game items (such as cosmetics, llamas, or battle cards) between January 2017 and September 2022.
– Fortnite players whose accounts were closed between January 2017 and September 2022 after disputing unauthorized charges with their credit card companies.
The FTC aims to “return money to affected consumers as smoothly as possible,” says Doughty. I created the website ftc.gov/fortnite where people can find more information and sign up for email updates.
But How do Consumers will prove they were robbed and it’s still in the works. “The process is a bit complicated because we’re dealing with a user base of 400 million players,” says Doty.
For its part, Epic Games has recently launched a number of payment and redemption features. It changed the practice to “save payment info by default” and instead offer “an explicit yes or no option to save payment info”.
For those “confusing” buttons that caused spam charges, Fortnite now has a “buy hold mechanic for all in-game purchases”.
“We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and to deliver the best experience for our players,” the company wrote in its public statement.
“The shock waves of this settlement will work their way through many layers of the gaming industry,” Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Institute for Family Online Safety, told NPR. He believes the FTC’s action signals a “new wave of recognition” by lawmakers and regulators “that this area needs to be brought under control.” At the same time, Belkam says, “Epic Games and most other game companies have already updated their practices. But it’s a very strong signal that the FTC will be watching closely how they develop their games.”
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