Epic Games fined in U.S. and sued in Canada for Fortnite troubles
Concerns range from in-app purchases to 'addicted' children
⭐️HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW⭐️
- Epic Games has agreed to pay millions in fines following a ruling in the U.S.
- The company behind Fortnite was accused of tricking players into spending real money in the game and collecting information about kids without parental permission.
- Meanwhile, in Canada, a Quebec judge has approved a class-action lawsuit against Epic Games.
- This comes after some parents said their kids were addicted to Fortnite and overspent on in-game purchases.
- Epic Games says it’s already making changes to protect younger players.
- Keep reading to hear one expert’s tips for gaming safely. ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️
Epic Games, the company behind the video game Fortnite, is facing a new kind of battle royale — the legal kind.
In the U.S., the company was accused of collecting information about kids without permission and tricking them into paying for in-game features.
For that, it has to pay $520 million US in fines and rebates to affected players.
In a separate lawsuit in Canada, Epic Games is being accused of harming kids because Fortnite — according to some parents — is addictive.
The company has already made some changes to the game to protect young players, but at least one expert says there are additional steps that kids can take to make sure their only injuries are virtual ones.
Situation in the U.S.
On Dec. 19 in the U.S., Epic Games agreed to pay $520 million US in fines and rebates to affected players.
The fines were imposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
It’s an independent agency of the U.S. government whose job it is to protect consumers.
This record-breaking fine is the largest ever for breaking an FTC rule.
That broken rule was a law known as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which seeks to protect kids online.
According to the FTC, Epic Games violated COPPA law by collecting personal information from Fortnite players under 13 without parental consent and deploying design tricks to get kids to download in-game content that costs real-world money.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here,” Epic said in a statement.
“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 statement went on to say.
More troubles in Canada
Meanwhile, a judge in Quebec has authorized a class-action lawsuit against Epic Games for different reasons.
A class-action lawsuit is “basically a group of people that share a similar problem and that are looking for a solution to their problem,” said Jean-Philippe Caron, one of the CaLex Legal lawyers working on the Quebec case.
The case, which was brought to the courts in 2019 by three Quebec parents, has received permission to proceed.
This judge’s authorization to proceed is just the beginning in a long legal battle, which could take up to a decade to be finalized.
The plaintiffs, who are the people arguing against Epic Games and Fortnite, claim two things.
One: They wish to have all the money kids spent on in-game currency or v-bucks returned.
Two: They want to receive compensation for “bodily injury” kids experienced while playing the game.
The plaintiffs claim that these bodily injuries include their Fortnite-playing children showing signs of “troubling behaviour” including: not sleeping, not eating, not showering and no longer socializing with their peers.
Although the case is based in Quebec, the law firm behind the lawsuit, CaLex, claims more than 280 people have reached out to them about joining the lawsuit from across Canada.
In a statement to CBC, Natalie Muñoz, the communications director for Epic Games, said the company is prepared to argue its case.
“We plan to fight this in court,” Muñoz wrote.
Epic Games has made changes to Fortnite
The game has already undergone changes since it came out, based on feedback and to better protect young gamers.
“We’ve learned from our players and have continually enhanced our features, policies and payment mechanics since Fortnite launched,” Epic Games said in a statement on their website.
In a media release, Fortnite outlined the changes it has implemented, such as increased parental controls and “cabined” accounts that encourage players to be honest about their age when playing.
A cabined account means that a player under the age of 13 in the U.S. or Canada will have to enter their parent or guardian's email address before they are allowed to unlock the full features of the game.
But unlike before, they aren’t blocked entirely from playing while they wait for permission.
How can kid gamers protect themselves?
According to Matthew Johnson, director of education for a Canadian non-profit called MediaSmarts, video games are designed to “make you keep playing or buy more,” but there are things kids can do to protect themselves.
He said it’s important to be aware of how you game and how gaming can affect you.
“A good place to start is by making a gaming diary where you record when you gamed, what you did, what you purchased and how you felt,” he told CBC Kids News.
“This can really help you get an idea of when and why you’re gaming, and how it can maybe interfere with other parts of your life.”
If in-game spending is an issue, he recommends turning off the ability to make in-game purchases or buy gift cards as a way of consciously and physically limiting how much you spend.
Have more questions? Want to tell us how we're doing? Use the “send us feedback” link below. ⬇️⬇️⬇️
With files from Laura Marchand, Pete Evans/CBC