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UK government investigating in-app purchase pressure on children


The Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which handles consumer protection in the UK, announced it's reviewing if freemium web and app games are encouraging children unduly to make purchases. The OFT says it's contacted certain companies behind free-to-play games, and asked parents and consumer groups to reach out with info about "potentially misleading or commercially aggressive practices" within such games.

The investigation is focusing on games that directly target children, the OFT says, via excessive pressure to make a purchase or to do something that requires a purchase. The OFT states this is illegal under the country's Consumer Protection Regulations Act of 2008.

"We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs," said OFT Senior Director for Goods and Consumer Cavendish Elithorn. "The OFT is not seeking to ban in-game purchases, but the games industry must ensure it is complying with the relevant regulations so that children are protected. We are speaking to the industry and will take enforcement action if necessary."

According to OFT, 80 of the country's highest grossing Android apps on April 9 were freemium ones. Earlier this year, Apple paid upwards of $100 million in gift certificates to account holders whose children spent money without holder permission on Capcom's Smurfs Village iOS game, this after a settlement on a lawsuit which stated Apple "failed to adequately" disclose the presence of in-app purchases aimed at children.

[Image Source: PicPocket Books]

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