Epic responds to Netherlands fine for ‘unfair commercial practices aimed at children’ in Fortnite

Fortnite developers Epic Games is appealing against the $1.2 million fines levied by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), which were handed down for using what the investigative body described as “unfair commercial practices” through the in-game store to “exploit children’s fear of missing out (FOMO).”

In a statement released today, Epic Games suggested the ACM had made “significant factual errors” in its investigation into the battle royale and further noted that the changes would result in a “poor experience for players” in Fortnite

Peely using Earthbending mythic item in Fortnite.
Fortnite has been under some heat. Screenshot by Dot Esports

While the company’s appeal is pending, it’s already made changes for Dutch gamers. Starting from May 24, children under 18 will not be “able to see or purchase items that are in the shop for less than 48 hours.” This will go into effect at the start of next season.

ACM’s investigation found two fundamental issues with Fortnite’s item shop, upon which they issued fines. Firstly, the game’s marketing terms—mainly the listing phrases “Get It Now” or “Buy Now”—paired with timers that create a sense of scarcity in digital goods which are not actually scarce but influence the children’s purchasing habits.

Secondly, according to ACM, the battle royale’s countdown timers were wildly inaccurate. They observed some items would not go away even after the 24-hour window expires, but the seemingly ticking countdowns put “pressure” on children to purchase or lose the item, creating a “dark pattern” in Epic’s intentional design choice.

Fortnite also revamped its item store recently removing all the rarities, which brought mixed reactions from the community. The developers also removed the 24-hour window rotation in its item shop. Furthermore, they will add individual rotation times tailored to each player’s time zone to improve transparency on the item’s timing of leaving the store.

ACM has given Epic a deadline of June 10, 2024, for the Fortnite devs to “reduce the uncertainty regarding the availability of its offerings in the item shop and increase the decision period for children under the age of 18 years.”

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