The UK’s Office of Fair Trading has launched an investigation to find out whether some free web-based games and mobile applications for children are breaking the law. It’s particularly concerned that games may include a ‘direct exhortation’ encouraging children to make a purchase or persuade their parents to buy advertised products for them, as this is illegal under consumer protection regulations. In addition, it’s concerned that the ‘full cost’ of a child’s game isn’t always obvious when a game is first accessed or downloaded.
A number of companies offering free web or app-based games have been contacted by the OFT, which wants more information about in-game marketing to children. The OFT is also asking concerned parents and consumer groups to pass on any information about misleading or inappropriate practices.
Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Senior Director for Goods and Consumer, said “We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs. The OFT is not seeking to ban in-game purchases, but the games industry must ensure it is complying with the relevant regulations so that children are protected. We are speaking to the industry and will take enforcement action if necessary.”
Results from the investigation are expected to be published by October.
[OFT investigation into children’s games]