Britain's Office of Fair Trading gives game authors until April 1 to stop tricking users into making in-app purchases
Great Britain's Office of Fair Tradinghas published a set of principles for online and "freemium"games (desktop and mobile), established to protect children fromgames that unconsciously manipulate them into making in-apppurchases, and to ensure the games don't breach England's consumerprotection law. The OFT has given game producers a deadline of April1 to implement the necessary changes to their current and futureproducts.
The OFT principles don't seek to banin-app purchases, but state that consumers should be told upfrontabout costs associated with a game or about in-game advertising, andany important information such as whether their personal data is tobe shared with other parties for marketing purposes. The principlesalso make clear that in-game payments are not authorised, and shouldnot be taken, unless the payment account holder, such as a parent,has given his or her express, informed consent.
The investigation leading to theformation of these principles was launched in April 2013, out ofconcern that children and their parents could be "subjected tounfair pressure to purchase items they thought were free, but whichcan actually run up substantial costs." The OFT investigationsurveyed game creators and looked into whether their games include "direct exhortations" to children - "a strong encouragement tomake a purchase, or to do something that will necessitate making apurchase, or to persuade adults to make apurchase for them." This is forbidden under Britain law.
Cases of unsupervised children spendingmoney from their parents' bank accounts on in-game items, with noability to understand they are dealing with real cash, are anotorious subject in the world of mobile and online games. Recently,Appleagreed to refund a massive $32.5 million dollars to settlecomplaints from parents of young kids. One such child spent as muchas $2385 (£1,500) in a mere twohours of playing Tap Pet Hotel, and this isn't an isolatedincident.
The eight principles are detailed in adocument which is accessible in PDF form atthis location. It gives many examples of proper and improperpractices of implementing in-app purchases, which are worth having alook at.