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."