OFT proposes guidelines on in-app purchases

Following its market investigation, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has published draft principles for the makers of online and app-based games.

The use of in-app purchases has become increasingly popular, particularly in games. This monetisation model involves the sale of game play extras to users in order to add an extra revenue stream. For example, the hugely popular app game ‘Infinity Blade’ enables users to purchase swords and other in-game items with real money for use in virtual battles as they progress through the game.

Although games such as ‘Infinity Blade’ mostly appeal to adults, there has been a marked increase in the number of games that use in-app purchases that are targeted at children. Public awareness of the issue was raised earlier this year by several high-profile news reports of children who had spent a fortune on in-app purchases — such as the British child who spent £1,700 playing ‘Zombies vs Ninja’ and another who purchased £980 worth of virtual doughnuts in ‘The Simpsons: Tapped Out’. It was, therefore, unsurprising when the OFT announced in April an investigation into the ways in which online and app-based games encourage children to make purchases…

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