In December of 2022, Fatherly reported that Epic Games — the studio that created the video games every parent loves to hate, Fortnite and Fall Guys — agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the FTC for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and to customers (or more likely, parents of customers) who were reportedly deceived into making in-app purchases that the FTC (and a million parents) claimed were nearly impossible to get refunded.
Perhaps this was you, opening up your bank statement after seeing an oddly high credit card balance and, in a moment of shock, found yourself on the hook for hundreds of dollars of purchases made to Fortnite.
But… you didn’t buy anything! And the game is free, right? And your kid promised they didn’t purchase anything, or you realize that they did and they knew what they were doing, but they didn’t have to ask you to do it in the first place.
And then you struggled to get the charges refunded by the company.
Well, now Epic Games has finally announced it’s ready to start giving out refunds to parents (and customers of all ages, though we all know who plays Fortnite) who were stuck in this quagmire.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here,” Epic representatives said in a 2022 statement on the company’s website about the settlement. “We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the payments, when you’ll get them, and if you qualify.
What was the case against Fortnite?
The FTC levied a $275 million fine against Epic Games for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a law that protects children’s privacy on the internet — Epic Games was accused of not getting parent’s consent before collecting data about their minor users and for not deleting data of its minor users.
Epic Games also, for every parent that found a mysterious charge on their credit card billed to the company, agreed to pay out $245 million to those who had fallen prey to the “dark patterns” on their gaming platforms — AKA “something that is deliberately added to a game to cause an unwanted negative experience for the player with a positive outcome for the game developer,” per a Dark Patterns website.
In this case, those “dark patterns” were “V-Bucks.” Though the game is free, users can spend real dollars to purchase the in-game currency to upgrade their characters or buy “battle passes,” which unlock more skins and collectibles for players. In this case, kids were reportedly directed to make in-app purchases, which were then challenging to reverse.
If you were one of those parents, you know exactly how tough that was — the FTC notes that the company “charged parents and gamers of all ages,” and then made it super challenging to get those refunds, locking “the accounts of customers who disputed wrongful charges with their credit card companies.” The FTC alleged the cancel or refund buttons were hard to find, and underage users were able to make purchases without parental consent.
And it wasn’t just irresponsible kids not understanding what money is — though that certainly played a part. Game design led to problems, too.
“Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button. For example, players could be charged while attempting to wake the game from sleep mode, while the game was in a loading screen, or by pressing an adjacent button while attempting simply to preview an item,” the FTC said.
The FTC also said that Epic would lock the accounts of those who were trying to fight their charges and that if they were reinstated, “consumers were warned that they could be banned for life if they disputed any future charges.”
How do I know if I qualify for a settlement or refund?
The FTC says you should apply for a refund if you are any of these people and you are over 18:
- “You were charged in-game currency for items you didn’t want between January 2017 and September 2022
- Your child made charges to your credit card without your knowledge between January 2017 and November 2018
- Your account was locked between January 2017 and September 2022 after you complained to your credit card company about wrongful charges”
How do I apply to get my refund?
Go to www.fortniterefund.com/file-a-claim. Make sure you have your Epic Account ID on hand if you didn’t get an email from Epic Games with a claim number. You have until mid-January of 2024 to apply, so why wait?
Will I get all of my money back?
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say how much money people will get from this refund. Epic Games is saying that it really depends on how many people file claims to get their money back, and have fingered at least 37 million potential customers who qualify. You can do the math from there.