Fortnite developer Epic Games is being hit with $520 million in fines by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and there’s a chance that you could get a payout.
Out of that $520 million total, $245 million is set to be refunded to customers. Refunds are meant to go to those affected by the company’s billing and refund practices — mainly players (and parents of younger players) who were charged for unwanted cosmetics and were met with account locks if they tried to dispute the charges with their credit card companies.
If you’ve experienced anything like this with Epic Games, this is an ongoing story you’ll want to pay attention to. Here’s everything we know right now about who is eligible for a refund and what the settlement might look like.
What you need to know about the Fortnite FTC settlement
The $275 million monetary penalty for violating the COPPA Rule that Epic Games has been tasked with paying is the largest penalty ever obtained for violating an FTC rule, according to the FTC. The order was finalized in March 2023.
The settlement is a result of two separate complaints by the FTC.
The first complaint alleged that Epic violated the COPPA Rule by collecting personal information from children under 13 who played Fortnite, a child-directed online service, without notifying their parents or obtaining their parents’ verifiable consent. Epic Games also violated the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair practices by enabling real-time voice and text chat communications for children and teens by default.
The second complaint alleged that Epic used dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases and let children rack up unauthorized charges without any parental involvement.
“As our complaints note, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “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 has publically commented on the settlement in a blog post, which outlines the effort it has put into protecting the privacy of young players and changes to payment systems over the years.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here. The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount. Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate,” reads the statement. “The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
The post goes on to outline changes Epic Games has made to Fortnite settings and policies in wake of the settlement, including offering more explicit language when saving payment information and expanding youth privacy protections.
Who is eligible for a refund?
According to the FTC, refunds will be made available to the following people:
- Parents whose children made an unauthorized credit card purchase in 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 passes) between January 2017 and September 2022
- Fortnite players whose accounts were locked between January 2017 and September 2022 after disputing unauthorized charges with their credit card companies.
When will refunds be paid?
There is no timeline right now on when Epic Games will be made to send refunds to eligible players or how long it will take to figure out a claim process.
What do I need to do to get a refund?
This settlement is still in its very early days, so there’s no race to prove you’re eligible. Here’s the official word from the FTC: “If you believe that you are eligible for a payment, you don’t need to do anything right now.”
The FTC recommends bookmarking its official Fortnite page and hanging tight for more information as the settlement progresses behind the scenes. We’ll also be on the lookout and update this page as more information becomes available.
As a reminder, the FTC will never charge you a fee to file a claim or get a refund. With news of the settlement becoming widespread, there will undoubtedly be scams afoot, so be wary.