Will OFT app scrutiny undermine games?

Few will comment on the record, but an investigation into in-app purchases could impact publishers of kids games.

The Office of Fair Trading last week expressed concerns that children are being misled into spending significant sums on games promoted as free, and said it will review this part of the games industry.

Mainstream press reports have dwelled on recent cases where kids have inadvertently, and allegedly unknowingly, spent thousands of pounds on in-game purchases.

An OFT review could see publishers of offending titles prosecuted, or suggest new rules on how these transactions are presented.

The majority of publishers and new developers of this content declined to comment when approached by MCV, with some deferring to a wider UKIE statement.

The trade body insists the industry takes responsibility to children very seriously” and that it will continue to raise awareness of IAP”.

Online free-to-play giant Bigpoint, however, has told MCV that 80 to 90 per cent of its users play without using any in-app purchases. The firm says it is open with users about what they’re buying.

Every time we’re asked, we advise parents to talk with their children about what they’re doing online,” head of payment Jochen Siegert told MCV.

Parents should never give their children access to payment methods they don’t want their children to use.”

But as more and more traditional games publishers turn to in-app payments and newer areas like free-to-play, the issue of pushing responsibility solely on parents might not wash with the OFT, which said it will look at misleading, commercially aggressive or otherwise unfair” games on web and mobile.

Findings of the review are expected in October.

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