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Fortnite dev Epic Games fined €1.1M for in-game ads in Netherlands

Fortnite’s developer Epic Games has been fined €1.1 million (US$1.198M) by Dutch regulators for allegedly using deceptive practices to... Paolo | 18. May 2024

Fortnite’s developer Epic Games has been fined €1.1 million (US$1.198M) by Dutch regulators for allegedly using deceptive practices to make children buy in-game items.

According to a report from Esports Insider, the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) found the battle royale game developer to have allegedly “exploiting the vulnerabilities of children through various design choices.”

The report cites the use of terminologies which the ACM says was, promoting an “illegal aggressive commercial practice”, such as “get it now” or “buy now” to make purchases within the game. This reportedly warranted the first fine, which was around €562,500.

The second fine, according to the Esports Insider report, was for “some instances which saw items remain in the store when the countdown ended, resulting in the timers potentially being utilized as a method of creating FOMO (fear of missing out).” This warranted another fine of €562,500.

 

According to ACM, Epic Games allegedly violated requirements of professional diligence by saying the developer did not consider the susceptibility of children to certain commercial practices.

ACM board member Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh said of the fining, “Businesses that offer products to children have a responsibility to keep in mind that children are particularly sensitive to certain incentives. In the popular game Fortnite, children’s vulnerabilities were exploited and were thus pressured into making purchases. With this decision, we are sending a clear signal: children must be able to play online games without being put under undue pressure. These practices by Epic erode confidence in the digital economy.”

Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, shed light on its decision to fine Epic Games: “Businesses that offer products to children have a responsibility to keep in mind that children are particularly sensitive to certain incentives.

“In the popular game Fortnite, children’s vulnerabilities were exploited and were thus pressured into making purchases. With this decision, we are sending a clear signal: children must be able to play online games without being put under undue pressure. These practices by Epic erode confidence in the digital economy.”

In a statement posted on its website, Epic Games said it has appealed the said ruling.

“While our appeal is pending, players in the Netherlands that are under the age of 18 will not be able to see or purchase items that are in the shop for less than 48 hours, beginning May 24, 2024,” Epic responded. “We regularly update the Fortnite Item Shop. We announced some recent and upcoming changes in April 2024.”

Epic says, they have already implemented changes within the game, among them are: removing the Item Shop timer to instead display the player’s local time when the Item Shop will refresh and items may leave the Shop, removing tiers and colors of cosmetics in the Item Shop, and adding the date that an item will rotate out of the shop to the Item Description on May 24, 2024.

Epic also responded by saying that player accounts of under-16s  will initially be a Cabined Account, which the devs claim “provides a safe and inclusive space to play Fortnite.”

In a Cabined Account, younger players are not able to make real-money purchases or access certain features, like voice or text chat, until their parent or guardian provides consent. 

Epic also says Parental Controls enable parents to require a PIN before their child can make purchases and we have a global daily spending limit for players under 13.

This is the second esports industry stakeholder fined by Dutch regulators this year, following a February 2024 fining of streaming platform Twitch due to its suspension of video on demand services in the Netherlands.