OFT publishes principles for online and mobile games

The Office of Fair Trading has published its principles for online and app games.

These principles state that consumers should be informed about costs associated with the game and in-game advertising – as well as whether their personal data will be shared with third parties for advertising purposes.

In-app purchases are also not authorised and will not be taken without the ‘express, informed consent’ of the account holder.

In addition, the body also published guidelines for parents to reduce the number of accidental and unauthorised in-app purchases.

These include checking the payment options settings on their device, and setting a password to be required for payments, as well as checking whether the app involves any purchases by checking its description.

Parents are also advised to play the game themselves to understand what their children will see, and to be aware that the game might change after automatic updates.

Games developers have until April 1st to make sure that their titles are within these rules, or else they could face reprisals from the Competition and Markets Authority.

Clive Maxwell, OFT chief executive said: Many children enjoy playing these types of games. This rapidly growing creative sector has also brought wider economic benefits.

The online and apps based games industry has already made significant improvements during our consultation process. But it still needs to do more to protect children and treat its customers fairly.

Our principles make clear the type of practices that games makers and platform operators should avoid.

Parents and carers have an important role to help protect their child and their bank balance. Our advice is that parents check their device settings, play their child’s games themselves and read the game’s description online. Parents will also be encouraged to report concerns to Citizens Advice.”

The CMA’s chief executive, Alex Chisholm, said:

"Once the CMA acquires its powers in April 2014, we will pick up from where the OFT has left off. The CMA will continue to monitor the market to check whether the industry is complying with its legal obligations.

"Traders in the industry are therefore advised to satisfy themselves that they are in compliance with the principles ahead of this next stage of the project. Failure to comply with the principles could risk enforcement action."

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