UK government investigates freemium games aimed at children

April 12, 2013
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freemium

Raise your hand if you love in-app purchases, and the idea of freemium games. Something tells me that few to no hands are up. Universally, in-app purchases don’t get much love, but did you know that beyond being annoying, in-app purchases aimed at children could be illegal as well? At least that could be the case in the UK.

The Office of Fair Trading in the UK has now announced they are investigating into whether or not children are being exploited by freemium game makers through overly-aggressive advertising of in-app purchases.

For those that don’t know, the OFT is sort of the United Kingdom’s version of the U.S.-based FTC. It is their responsibility to help protect consumers. The first step of the investigation involves the OFT writing to companies that offer such games, all while also reaching out to parents and consumer groups for additional feedback.

Any game found to include triggers that essentially force a parent to buy something for a child to fully enjoy the game could be in violation of the Consumer Protection Regulations Act of 2008. This could include games that force tons of pop-ups demanding you buy additional content, or even games that ask for virtual currency such as coins.

Now to be clear, the OFT isn’t looking to ban in-app purchases. Part of what they are probing into is whether or not apps are fairly advertising the full cost to truly get an app or simply hooking people in with the promise of free but not actually delivering.

The UK organization says their goal is to ensure the industry is complying with consumer law, and will take enforcement action if they must.

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