Fortnite fined £1,000,000 for ‘aggressive’ and ‘deceptive’ ads targeting kids


Countdown timers encouraging players to buy cosmetic items have been removed from Fortnite because of a Dutch lawsuit.

Although the moral and legal arguments over lootboxes have largely died away in recent years, there’s still plenty of concern over some of the methods publishers use in their games, to promote online purchases, and once again the Netherlands is the first to take substantial action.

They and Belgium both consider lootboxes to be gambling and tried to fine EA €10 million (£8.60 million) back in 2022, although they were later overruled in court.

That means 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, starting from May 24.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) argued that phrases such as ‘Get it now’ or ‘Buy it now’ constituted an ‘illegal aggressive commercial practice under all circumstances.’

A second accusation described countdown timers as ‘deceptive’ and ‘misleading’, because, despite the implication, items would not necessarily become unavailable once the timer runs out.

‘Children’s vulnerabilities were exploited and were thus pressured into making purchases,’ claimed ACM board member Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh.

‘With this decision, we are sending a clear signal: children must be able to play online games without being put under undue pressure,’ she added.

Despite the win, the ACM’s demands seem relatively modest, with Epic already having removed countdown timers worldwide, at least while the judgement is pending.

That means for players under 18-years-old all items in the in-game store will be available for 48 hours or more, which Epic describes as being a ’poor experience for players.’

Epic Games has filed an objection that they hope will overturn the judgement arguing that the findings, ‘contain significant factual errors about how Fortnite and the Item Shop operate.’

If the judgement is sustained it’s not clear what other changes Epic will be forced to make but presumably they’ll also apply to the international version of the game.

Although it seems likely that fans will probably be able to survive without countdown timers and less encouragement to buy in-game items.

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By GameCentral 14 May 2024


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