The U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading is investigating children’s games that charge in-app purchases for additional content and virtual items. The watchdog will look at games on mobile and on the web, and it’s calling for parents to report titles that “aggressively push” in-app purchases to children.
The OFT hopes to identify games that are “misleading, commercially aggressive or otherwise unfair” when promoting the ability to purchase extra items, such as additional levels and characters, equipment, or virtual currency.
“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 Cavendish Elithorn, the OFT’s senior director for goods and consumer.
The investigation follows numerous reports about children who unwittingly spend heaps of their parents’ cash on extra items in mobile and web games. Back in January, 5-year-old Danny Kitchen from the U.K. amassed a $2,550 iTunes bill in just 10 minutes after buying additional content within an iPad game.
Two months later, a British policeman reported his 13-year-old son for fraud in an effort to recover the $5,620 iTunes bill had had amassed on more than 300 in-app purchases within iOS games.
The OFT believes the makers of these games could be breaking laws by strongly encouraging children to buy their add-ons. It isn’t interested in banning those game makers, but it does want to ensure that they are complying with relevant laws.
Of course, it’s easy for parents to prevent unexpected iTunes bills by blocking in-app purchases on their iOS devices, and Apple has made this clear time and time again.
Source: BBC News