It appears as though the UK doesn’t take breaches of consumer trust lightly. According to the BBC, the concern about in-game fees and charges on otherwise-free games has made the country’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) propose new guidelines for mobile and social game developers if they wish to be allowed to distribute said titles in the UK.
The report can be found in its entirety here, but let’s highlight some of the proposed measures:
- Information about associated costs should be provided accurately upfront before the consumer purchases, downloads or plays said content.
- Material information (the in-game marketing tactics, contract details [including how to opt out], what personal data is collected) should be included upfront, as well.
- Information about the business that creates the game, including easily-accessible contact information, should be available upfront.
- Any commercial or paid content within a game should be clearly distinguished and separate from regular intended gameplay.
- There should be no misleading language that implies that optional paid content is mandatory gameplay features.
- Games should not include practices that exploit the inexperience or naivety of children in order to sway or guilt them into purchases.
- Each payment should require direct authorization by the payment account holder (to prevent streamlines purchases without consent).
These do not generally affect games that make over $600,000 a day through honest means, but through cheap knockoff applications that masquerade as official games or “shell games” that provide little element of play as possible but try to charge exorbitant fees through dishonesty. The OFT is working with international parties and hope to enforce a final proposal starting next April.