Following their investigation into the practices of web and app-based games companies in 2013, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has given the online games industry a deadline of 1st April to adhere to their new official guidelines.
The OFT’s principles for online and in-app games sets out how web and app-based games companies are to now use in-app purchases and the personal data of their customers.
The principles state that online games developers and publishers must provide clear information about the business and all costs associated with the game, as well as all material information, before the consumer downloads, signs up to or starts to play the game. And in-game payments can only be taken from the account holder with their ‘express, informed consent.’
Another of the 8 principles states that a game ‘should not mislead consumers by giving the false impression that payments are required or are an integral part of the way the game is played if that is not the case.’
The guidelines also raise the issue of protecting children from exploitative practices and state that web or app-based games ‘should not include practices that are aggressive, or which otherwise have the potential to exploit a child’s inherent inexperience, vulnerability or credulity or to place undue influence or pressure on a child to make a purchase.’
The OFT has also published advice for parents on how to help their children use online games safely. You can find all these tips on the Citizens Advice Bureau website.