In-app purchases made by gift card-wielding minors are the subject of a proposed class action lawsuit that looks to force Fortnite maker Epic Games, Inc. to reverse course and allow refunds on “loot” bought within the game.
The 20-page case out of Washington argues that Fortnite—the open-world survival game whose estimated 200 million players worldwide are encouraged to spend money on in-game weapons, tools and resources—is targeted at children and designed deliberately to be “highly addictive.” According to the lawsuit, although many minors do not have consent from parents or guardians to make purchases within the Fortnite gamescape, that does not stop the players from using their own gift card money to buy in-app loot with in-game currency called V-Bucks. Purchases made in the game are for the most part non-refundable, and Epic, the suit says, allows a refund for a total of three items “throughout the lifetime of the user and only from those purchases made from the last 30 days.”
All told, Epic’s use of V-Bucks and its nondisclosure regarding how much money a player has spent is problematic for younger players who the suit says lack the capability to conceptualize just how much actual money they’ve spent within the game. The V-Bucks system, the lawsuit claims, essentially allows the defendant to trick minors into spending money and is especially effective on those who want to skip over the “difficult and inconsistent” process of earning V-Bucks in the game and would rather buy the currency in bulk.
The plaintiff, a minor identified by the pseudonym “Johnny Doe,” apparently made several in-app Fortnite purchases that were labeled non-refundable. The suit says the boy wanted to disaffirm the purchases but was not allowed to do so. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff has made V-Bucks purchases via gift cards “without understanding the amounts involved in actual money to-date, that day, that week or that month.”