Fortnite creator Epic Games agreed Monday to pay $520 million over allegations it violated children’s privacy laws and used misleading gaming features that tricked customers into shelling out millions of dollars.
In a legal complaint, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), said Epic Games collected personal information from kids under 13 without notifying their parents or obtaining verifiable parental consent. That’s a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Further, the FTC said the company illegally enabled real-time voice and text communications for children and teens by default.
Fortnite is an extremely popular online first-person shooter game. It’s free to download but then it charges users for in-game purchases of items like weapons and wardrobes.
In a blog post addressing the twin settlements, Epic said the agreement reflects an evolution in how U.S. laws are applied to the video gaming industry.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here,” the company said in the blog. “We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
In her own statement, FTC Chair Lina Khan said, “Protecting the public, and especially children, from online privacy invasions and dark patterns is a top priority for the Commission, and these enforcement actions make clear to businesses that the FTC is cracking down on these unlawful practices.”
Epic Games is also facing a class-action lawsuit in Canada brought by parents alleging that the game is intentionally addictive for children.