OFT to games firms: you have two months to comply with consumer protection laws

OFT to games firms: you have two months to comply with consumer protection lawsThe Office of Fair Trading (OFT) commenced an investigation into in-app purchases back in April 2013, after a number of incidents involving kids spending oodles of money on in-app content without parental permission.

Building on its September 2013 Children’s Online Games report, the OFT has thrown in a handful more principals, and says – presumably in an ED-209 voice – that games firms have until April 1 to comply.

The principals state that games should detail in-app purchases and advertising up front, and in addition specify what personal data might be shared for marketing purposes.

Furthermore, in-app purchases should not be possible without the "express, informed consent" of the account holder.

"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," yells OFT chief exec Clive Maxwell, before stressing that parents have a responsibility, too.

"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."

Any games failing to adhere to the principals outlined by the OFT will face the wrath of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Chief exec Alex Chisholm warns: "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.”

Spongebob Moves In made headlines last year, with a £2.49 price tag and in-app purchases ranging from 69p to – wait for it - £69.99.

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