In April 2013, the OFT announced the launch of an investigation into the ways in which online and app-based games encourage children to make purchases. We investigated whether there was general market compliance with consumer protection law, in particular the Consumer Protection (from Unfair Trading) Regulations 2008 ('CPRs'), the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 ('the UTCCRs') and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 ('the ECRs'). We explored whether online and app-based games included commercial practices that may be considered misleading, aggressive or otherwise unfair under that legislation.
As part of the investigation, we scrutinised commercial practices in 38 web and app-based games that we considered were likely to appeal to children. The games we examined are produced by businesses in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. We also received around 200 submissions in response to our call for information, approximately 160 of which were from parents, the rest mostly from industry stakeholders.
We met several industry stakeholders - including individual businesses and trade associations - to discuss our concerns. In July 2013, we hosted a meeting with around 45 industry stakeholders to share an early draft of the proposed Principles contained in the Annexe to this report. We used feedback received at that meeting to refine and clarify the Principles.
Our report (pdf 665kb) outlines the main issues we identified through our investigation and our proposed remedy: to produce a set of industry-wide Principles to make clear the OFT's views on businesses' obligations under consumer protection law and what they should do to avoid being the subject of targeted enforcement action. Our proposed Principles (pdf 153kb) are included as an annexe to the report. We are consulting on these proposed Principles and are inviting comments on them until 21 November 2013.
Marie Southgate, Team Leader
Office of Fair Trading
2-6 Salisbury Square
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