Sections

The Office of Fair Trading warns game industry over targeting children with in-app purchases

Thursday, 26th September 2013 11:08 GMT By Dave Owen

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has cautioned mobile games developers about featuring aggressive in-app purchases in their games. This follows an investigation into whether children are being pressured or encouraged to fork out for new content within the app. The OFT has published new principles for consultation, which insist consumers must be told up front about in-game costs and advertising.

Additionally, games makers are expected to make it clear that in-game payments are not authorised unless the payment account holder gives their consent.

The investigation looked at 28 games, and found that some featured potentially unfair and aggressive commercial practices that could be particularly impactful on children. These included games with so-called social aspects that make the player feel as if they will let other players down if they do not make an in-app purchase to obtain an object or more lives.

OFT executive director Cavendish Elithorn said: “This is a new and innovative industry that has grown very rapidly in recent years, but it needs to ensure it is treating consumers fairly and that children are protected.

“The way the sector has worked with us since we launched our investigation is encouraging, and we’ve already seen some positive changes to its practices. These principles provide a clear benchmark for how games makers should be operating. Once they are finalised, we will expect the industry to follow them, or risk enforcement action.

“In the meantime, we want to hear what parents, consumer groups, industry and anyone else with an interest thinks about our principles before we finalise them later this year.

“This is a global industry so we’re also sharing our principles with our enforcement partners world-wide with the goal of achieving some common international standards.”

Thanks, Eurogamer.

Breaking news

6 Comments

Sign in to post a comment.

  1. VibraniumSpork

    Fuck ‘em. Kids need to learn about debt sometime or another. Let’s give them all teeny-tiny Credit Cards that they’re left paying off well into their thirties thanks to their pre-pubescent Club Penguin addictions. It’s tough love, but it’s the only kind I respect.

    #1 7 months ago
  2. TheBlackHole

    Assuming @1 is taking the piss…

    I think it’s good that greater scrutiny is being places on developers. There are plenty of legitimate MTX-based games, but too many are intentionally designed to con people into making frequent payments, eitherb through awkwardly placed ads/upgrade buttons and frequent pop-ups placed where oft-used buttons are placed.

    Maybe if we can rid the industry of this crap, we will start to see much better-implemented systems.

    #2 7 months ago
  3. GrimRita

    Yet again lazy bastard parents cant take responsibility for their kids. I mean, how difficult is it to turn the IAP feature OFF before handing the kid a phone?

    #3 7 months ago
  4. VibraniumSpork

    @3

    Kids: http://static4.businessinsider.com/image/5049fdefecad04a361000008/throwing-money.gif

    Parents: http://wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/starcrush.com/files/2013/07/shrug-4.gif

    #4 7 months ago
  5. edragon

    Do they allow go kids to Casinos? NO! You need to be over 21. Why? Because Casinos is addictive? Guess what online games with microtransactions is addictive too. Look around there is so many people who acting actually same way like casino addicts! They take loans, rob someone, etc. So why are allowed kids play online games with microtransactions, but same time they are not allowed visit Casinos?

    #5 7 months ago
  6. karma

    I dont care much for the multitude of pointless laws brought into existence to make our lives more complicated, but if one law does not need to exist, its a ban on in-game/app purchasing. Its a fucking disgusting practice especially because its primary target IS young minded kids and those susceptible to its addictive marketing ploys.

    I doubt fair trading will ever actually do anything about it though. They just state what everyone is thinking.

    #6 7 months ago