Epic Games has released a statement in response to a fine it received earlier this month from the FTC, who charged the company $275 million due to privacy concerns and ordered it to pay an additional $245 million in refunds to users who made unintended purchases.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here. The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount,” reads the statement. “Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate. The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players. “
Referring to the payment system, Epic Games clarified its prior decision to save the payment information of users as an effort to streamline the process, which is a common method used by app developers. The company has agreed to offer customers an explicit yes or no choice about whether they want their information to be shared, as well as updated their payment flows and implemented instant purchase cancellation and self-service refunds to help prevent unintentional purchases in the future, and make it easier for consumers to receive refunds should they accidentally make a purchase.
Following claims that the company has banned accounts due who have spoken to their banks to cancel unauthorized transactions, the statement claims that this is a common industry practice to help prevent fraud. However, under the updated chargeback policy the company will only accounts if fraud indicators are present.
The power of privacy
The statement addresses concerns regarding the company’s compliance with the USA’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), specifically how the company allows underaged gamers to interact with the community.
While game developers may be familiar with COPPA, they may not be aware of its global application. COPPA is just one of the many regulations addressing children’s privacy around the world, which are expanding to include teens. This means game developers should expand youth privacy protections to include players under 18.
"In September, we implemented high privacy default settings for players under the age of 18. Chat defaults to “Nobody," profile details default to hidden, parties default to “Invite Only," and personalized recommendations are defaulted Off. Players under 16 also have the mature language filter defaulted On for text chat."
Earlier this month, the FTC voted to sue to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, citing concerns about how the deal could impact competitors.