The Office of Fair Trading - the UK government department responsible for competition and consumer law - has told mobile app developers and games producers that it wants consumers to be warned about optional extra costs before they download or start playing.
Ending the possibility of unintentional ‘in-app’ or ‘in-game’ payments is just one of eight principles the OFT has published today. It’s asking for feedback on its plans by 21st November.
Other proposed principles include ensuring that in-game promotions are distinguishable from gameplay and taking care not to pressurise children into making in-app purchases.
These new principles are intended to clarify the way that different companies are interpreting consumer law.
This proposal follows an OFT investigation into whether free online and app-based games targeted at children were breaking the law. It warns that many of the games it examined contained at least one commercial practice that it considered was likely to breach consumer protection law.
Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Executive Director, 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.”
[Children’s online games: OFT case; Proposed principles for online and app-based games (pdf)]