"Dark patterns" are web design tricks that cause consumers to make unwanted purchases. The Federal Trade Commission says Epic Games used them in its Fortnite video game to trick players and let children rack up unauthorized charges.
The agency has ordered Epic to pay $245 million to consumers to settle the charges.
The complaint was part of a settlement package with Epic first announced in December. The FTC said that Epic used counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration to trick into incurring unwanted charges based on the press of a single button.
The company also made it easy for children to make purchases while playing Fortnite without requiring any parental consent. According to the FTC’s complaint, Epic also locked the accounts of customers who disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card companies.
Under the FTC’s order, Epic must pay $245 million, which will be used to provide refunds to consumers. 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.
As part of a separate settlement, also announced in December, Epic agreed to pay a $275 million penalty to settle FTC allegations that the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule.
Consumers who believe they may have been injured by Epic’s practices can visit FTC.gov/Fortnite for more information on the refund process.