The FTC says nearly half of Epic Games' $520 million settlement will go to

The FTC says nearly half of Epic Games' $520 million settlement will go to "refunds for tricking" Fortnite "users into making unwanted charges." / Epic Games

Ever accidentally swipe or press lightly on a button and end up charged for something you didn't want? Federal Trade Commission attorney James Doty says that's what happened to millions of Fortnite players.

"The button configuration within Fortnite was so confusing and inconsistent that it was extremely easy for users to rack up charges for items they did not want," he says, "Game players are kind of fast and furiously pressing buttons. Some of those buttons preview items. Some of those buttons purchase items. And if a user was previewing an item and accidentally pressed an adjacent button, they would immediately be charged for the item with no recourse."

Of the $520 million settlement from Epic Games, $245 million will go towards refunding Fortnite consumers who the FTC says were tricked into making unwanted charges.

The FTC has identified three categories of consumers eligible for refunds:

-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.

Doty says the FTC aims to "give money back to injured consumers as seamlessly as possible." It set up the website where people can find more information and sign up for email updates.

But how consumers will prove they've been ripped off is still being worked out. "The process is a little bit complicated because we are dealing with a user base of 400 million players," says Doty.

For its part, Epic Games recently instituted a number of payment and refund features. It has changed the practice of "saving payment information by default" and instead offers "an explicit yes or no choice to save payment information."

As for those "confusing" buttons that caused unwanted charges, Fortnite now has a "hold-to-purchase mechanic for all in-game purchases."

In its public statement, the company writes, "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 shockwaves of this settlement will work its way through the many layers of the gaming industry," Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute tells NPR. He believes the FTC's action signals "a new wave of recognition" by lawmakers and regulators "that this area needs to be controlled." At the same time, Balkam says, "Epic Games and most of the other gaming companies have already updated their practices. But it's a very strong indication that the FTC is going to keep a close eye on how they develop their games."

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