EA slapped with €5 million red card fine over FIFA loot boxes

A district court in the Netherlands has ruled in favour of the Dutch government over the €5 million fine it imposed on EA for selling FIFA Ultimate Team Packs.

EA will have up to six weeks from now to appeal the decision made by The District Court of The Hague. If the appeal fails, the American video game company will either have to make changes to the FIFA series of games or else pay €500,000 per week in fines, up to a maximum penalty of €5 million.

In 2019, the Netherlands Gambling Authority (Kansspelautoriteit, Ksa) imposed an administrative order on EA for violating the country’s Gambling Act through the selling of Packs on FIFA Ultimate Team. The Netherlands banned loot boxes back in 2018 following a study by the Ksa into the modern gaming phenomenon.

FIFA 21 FUT Fifa loot boxes
Image: EA Vancouver/EA Romania

Earlier this year, EA were caught advertising loot boxes to children in a UK magazine. There’s a great concern over how loot boxes can exploit young children, with the 2018 Ksa study revealing a potential correlation between loot boxes and the development of gambling addictions.

Real-life money can be spent on Packs in FIFA, allowing the player to obtain a random selection of highly-rated players to use against human opponents. While Packs can be purchased using in-game currency obtained through playing, the arms race of obtaining a powerful Cristiano Ronaldo or Kylian Mbappé leads to many players spending real-life money to do so.

In a statement to Eurogamer, EA has confirmed that it will appeal the decision, stating:

“We do not believe that our products and services violate gambling laws in any way. We are appealing this decision… We seek to bring choice, fairness, value and fun to all our players in all of our games.”

With loot box legislation evolving around the world, including here in Australia, there’s a hope that loot boxes will become considerably less pervasive in gaming. However, with EA wanting to fight a fine that is but a tiny percentage of their revenue from FIFA Ultimate Team alone, the ongoing battle against these exploitative practices will rage on.