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BizReport : Mobile Marketing : September 26, 2013

OFT develops new regulations for 'free to play' games targeting children

A crackdown on free online 'pay to play' games targeted at children will see new regulations come in to force by April next year.

by Helen Leggatt

The Office of Fair Trading in the UK spent five months investigating 38 games it believed were popular among children and, as a result of their analysis have developed a set of eight regulations it wants the game industry to adhere to, or risk incurring fines.

Among the new regulations suggested by the Office of Fair Trading are:

- Up-front and clear information about any costs associated with the game, including in-app purchases, before it is downloaded;

- Banning suggestive language that exploits children such as suggesting a virtual pet will become sick if real money isn't spent on its care;

- Provision of clear contact details from which consumers can get a speedy response.

"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," said Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Executive Director. "These principles provide a clear benchmark for how games makers should be operating. Once they are finalized, we will expect the industry to follow them, or risk enforcement action."

Earlier this year, research from Microsoft Windows Phone found that mobile app and in-app purchases made without permission by children on a parent's smartphone or tablet are adding $47 million a year to parents' bills.

Tags: app usage, in-app payments, law and regulation, mobile game, mobile trends

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