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Epic 1.1m fined for breaking EU consumer law in Netherlands

Update: Epic Games has issued a statement in response to the ACM's findings

Original Story: The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets has fined Epic Games €1,125,000 for using "unfair commercial practices" aimed at children in Fortnite.

An investigation by the ACM found that the company "exploited [the] vulnerabilities" of children through design choices in its item shop.

This included using demanding phrases such as "get it now" or "buy now" on certain advertisements, which the ACM described as an "illegal aggressive commercial practice." Epic was fined €562,500 for this violation.

The investigation also found that countdown timers were used on some advertisements for items that were still available in the shop even after the countdown ended. The ACM deemed this as a way of exploiting children's fear of missing out from suggesting the scarcity of items that were otherwise still available to purchase. Epic was fined another €562,500 for this violation.

"Traders must take into account the fact that children are more vulnerable to certain commercial practices than regular consumers," the ACM said. "Epic actually exploited these types of vulnerabilities. As such, it failed to observe the required care that can be reasonably expected from traders when dealing with children."

The ACM has given Epic a deadline of June 10, 2024 to address these violations. The games firm has informed the ACM of its intention to implement changes.

Epic has already started by removing countdown timers worldwide, has added a time indicating when the shop will be refreshed, and a date next to items notifying players when the item will be removed.

Beginning May 24, 2024, players under 18 in the Netherlands will only see items in the store if they are available for 48 hours or more.

"Businesses that offer products to children have a responsibility to keep in mind that children are particularly sensitive to certain incentives," said ACM board member Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh. "In 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 pressure. These practices by Epic erode confidence in the digital economy."

Update: Epic has provided GamesIndustry.biz with the following statement regarding the ACM's findings:

"The findings in the ACM's decision contain significant factual errors about how Fortnite and the Item Shop operate. The ACM is mandating changes that would result in a poor experience for players. We will appeal this decision.

"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."

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Sophie McEvoy avatar
Sophie McEvoy: Sophie McEvoy is a Staff Writer at GamesIndustry.biz. She is based in Hampshire and has been a gaming & entertainment journalist since 2018.
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