Fortnite shop updated as Epic gets fined over microtransactions once again, this time for $1.2 million amid claims “children’s vulnerabilities were exploited”

For a brief moment I thought it was December 2022 again, because Fortnite maker Epic has been fined for microtransaction mechanics accused of exploiting children. But instead of the US Federal Trade Commission stinging the company for a net $520 million penalty, this time the Dutch Authority for Consumers & Markets has fined Epic for roughly $1.2 million over “unfair commercial practices aimed at children in Fortnite.”

The ACM flagged the news earlier today, and Epic has put out its own statement noting some changes but also disputing the decision. Last month, Epic announced that cosmetic colors and tiers would be removed, and beginning in late May, Fortnite item shop timers would “instead display the player’s local time when the Item Shop will refresh and items may leave the Shop,” and “the date that an item will rotate out of the shop” would be added to the item description. 

It now appears this case partly prompted these shop updates. Today, the ACM said “Epic has informed ACM of its plans to implement several changes to Fortnite’s Item Shop in order to end the violation,” pointing to the same changes and agreeing that they would be enough to meet its standards.

Additionally, Epic said today, “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.” 

The ACM argues that “companies need to do business with the utmost care, particularly when offering products to children.” However, it found that children playing Fortnite could instead “experience pressure in several ways to make purchases, for example by using ads which directly exhort children to make purchases, and by using misleading countdown timers for items on offer.”

“Through various design choices for its offerings in its Item Shop, Epic exploited the vulnerabilities of children,” the release reads. “This is in violation of the requirements of professional diligence.” 

The ACM singles out phrases like “Get it now” and “Buy now” as “ads that directly exhort children to make purchases,” and this got Epic a €562,500 fine. Separately, in an interesting case of live service-standard FOMO being interpreted by an outside party, it points to the previously global item shop countdown timer, which could cover “items that were still available even after the timer had reached zero.” This earned Epic another €562,500 fine.

“Timers create a sense of scarcity,” the ACM says. “Children were thus put under pressure to make purchase decisions quickly, because they were under the impression that they would otherwise miss out on the items on offer.” 

The ACM gave Epic until June 10 to act on “a binding instruction” to, in so many words, clean up the item shop. Epic objected to the decision, arguing the report showed “significant factual errors about how Fortnite and the Item Shop operate” and that the mandated changes would “result in a poor experience for players.” It also points to Fortnite’s restricted “Cabined Account” system, aimed at users under 16, and parental controls such as a purchase PIN – which demonstrably weren’t enough to satisfy the Dutch authority on their own. 

Fortnite creator knows exactly how he would make the Fortnite movie, but says he can’t see it happening “anytime soon.”

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