The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) published new sector-wide principles regarding the game-industry in terms of consumer protection, especially regarding children and teenagers. The draft principles clarify the OFT's view of the rapidly evolving sector's obligations and are designed to tackle inconsistencies in the way the sector is interpreting the law. Stakeholders are from now on invited to participate via a consultation on the draft. The finalised principles are supposed to be shared with international counterparts to achieve consistent standards where possible.
An investigation of the OFT analysed 38 games and found out that children are being unfairly pressured or encouraged to pay for additional content in web and app-based games. Some games included potentially unfair and aggressive commercial practices to which children may be particularly susceptible.
The draft principles include that:
- Children should not be encouraged or incited through in-game statements or images to make a purchase, or persuade others to make a purchase.
- Consumers should be told upfront about any possible in-game costs or advertising, and any important information such as whether their personal data is to be shared with third parties.
- In-game payments are not authorised, and should not be taken, unless the payment account holder, such as a parent, has given their informed consent.
“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 game makers should be operating. Once they are finalised, we will expect the industry to follow them, or risk enforcement action”, said Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Senior Director for Goods and Consumer.
Further information: Consultation on draft principles:
Source: Office of Fair Trading (OFT)