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In-game app fees face OFT crackdown

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) voiced its concerns about in-game charges, after studying 38 popular titles, which show evidence of potentially unfair and aggressive commercial practices.  Children might be particularly susceptible to such tactics, it warned.  As a consequence it has proposed new guidelines for developers, which will apply to both apps and internet browser-based video games including those via Facebook.

They include:

  • Providing up-front information about the costs associated with a game before consumers download it
  • Ensuring that gamers are not misled to believe they must make a payment to proceed if that is not the case, for example, if they could wait for a period of time instead
  • Preventing the use of language or anything else that might exploit a child’s inexperience, for example, implying an in-game character would be disappointed if they did not spend money
  • Making it clear how to contact the business if the gamer has a complaint
  • Only taking a payment if the account holder provides “informed consent”, in other words a charge cannot be made because a password has recently been entered for something else

The OFT has invited interested parties to comment on its principles by 21 November.  It then intends to publish a final version of the guidelines by February and begin enforcement action in April.

Image by Wesley Fryer.