The Office of Fair Trading yesterday warned the digital gaming industry they had two months to ensure their products complied with consumer protection laws.
The regulator yesterday published its final principles for online and in-app games which state that consumers should be told upfront about costs associated with a title, or about in-game advertising.
The principles also state that in-game payments – which tend to be small sums which open up new game play zones or allow a player to upgrade their characters – are not authorised and should not be taken unless express, informed consent from the bill payer has been received.
The OFT – which also published guidance for parents to help cut down on incidents of children being pressured into making unauthorised in-app purchases – said failure to comply with the new rules by April 1 would leave a developer at risk of enforcement action.
OFT chief executive Clive Maxwell said: “Many children enjoy playing these types of games. This rapidly growing creative sector has also brought wider economic benefits.
“The on-line 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.
“Our principles make clear the type of practices that games makers and platform operators should avoid.”
Dr Richard Wilson, chiefexecutive of industry body TIGA said: “The complexity and pace of change in the app and digital ecosystem means there will inevitably be further examples and guidance needed to achieve full compliance. Yet by and large the OFT’s work will be of great value to all our UK developers who want to be part of a fair and sustainable video game industry.
“What is now essential is for the OFT to work with its counterparts in the EU, the USA and across the globe to adopt a common approach to the free-to-play (F2P) market. The UK’s mobile and online games developers represent a small fraction of the global F2P development industry. To effectively protect both UK consumers and UK businesses, we must avoid these regulations becoming misaligned with the rest of the world.”