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.
- 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.