The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has begun notifying more than 37 million people who can now apply to claim a portion of a $245 million settlement with the owner of Fortnite, Epic Games, the agency announced this week.
Fortnite, the multiplayer shooter game that allows as many as 100 people to meet on a virtual island and battle it out to be No. 1, has become a cultural phenomenon since it was released about six years ago. It is no secret that the game can bring joy and pain: Top players sometimes score financial wins in tournaments, while obsessions can lead to stress at home.
In December, Epic Games agreed to pay $275 million to settle accusations that it violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and the company also agreed to refund $245 million to customers over accusations that it used manipulative online practices, called “dark patterns,” to trick millions players of all ages into making unwanted purchases.
“The company also made it easy for children to rack up charges without parental consent and locked the accounts of consumers who disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card companies,” the F.T.C. said in a news release.
The deal, totaling $520 million, not only put the video game industry on notice, but also was seen as a signal that federal officials may be taking a more assertive stance toward regulating the tech industry.
Those seeking to claim a piece of the settlement are advised to pay close attention to the guidelines established by the F.T.C. Here’s what to know:
First, check your email.
The F.T.C. said it had begun sending out emails to millions of Fortnite gamers this week about possibly reclaiming a refund. The agency said it would continue reaching out for one month.
Where can I apply?
The F.T.C. has established a page dedicated to Fortnite refunds. You can apply here.
When is the deadline to submit a claim?
The process to claim compensation will take one month to complete, the F.T.C. said, and customers have until Jan. 17, 2024, to submit a claim.
Are there age restrictions?
Yes. Claimants must be at least 18, and anyone younger must have a parent or guardian complete a form on their behalf.
Not everyone who plays the game will qualify.
Gamers may apply for a refund if they were charged in-game currency for unwanted items between January 2017 and September 2022.
Parents may apply if their child made charges to their credit card without their knowledge between January 2017 and November 2018.
Others can file a claim if their accounts were locked between January 2017 and September 2022 after complaining to their credit card company about the wrongful charges.
How much will my refund be?
It’s unclear at this time. Payment amounts will depend on several factors, the F.T.C. said, including how many people request one. It’s also unclear when payments will be issued to gamers and parents.