OFT To Crackdown On In-App Purchases

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has threatened action against the makers of games and apps that show evidence of “potentially unfair and aggressive commercial practices”.

One of the worst examples seen by the OFT involved a game where the player was made to feel bad by telling them a virtual animal was “ill” but could be cured by an in-app purchase.


Other areas of concern included blurring the distinction between spending in-game currency and real money and a general lack of transparent, accurate and clear upfront information about costs.

“I don’t think children are always aware that when they click ‘yes’ it’s spending money,” Cavendish Elithorn, executive director at the OFT, told the BBC.

TIGA’s chief executive, Richard Wilson, has said that the UK is leading the way in addressing these issues. United Kingdom Interactive Entertainment (Ukie)  chief executive, Jo Twist, has also commented on the report.

“It is vital that any final guidelines, whilst primarily considering the best interests of children, do not inadvertently isolate UK consumers from accessing the games that they want to play, stifle the creativity of games developers or prevent the growth of the UK games industry,” she said.

The OFT has invited interested parties to comment on its principles by mid November and intends to publish a final guidelines by February with enforcement action beginning in April 2014.

The rather large flaw on the OFT’s plan is that they can only admonish companies based in the U.K.

Source: BBC / OFT




  1. I’m a parent and let me just say this – It is not my responsibility to look after my child on-line. I let my son play all the time on my Nexus tablet using my account (I can’t be bothered to set up an account for him which doesn’t have credit card information logged against it, why should I?!), let him have my password (it’s the same password to both to access my account and make purchases) and never check or go through the settings options to restrict content. The Government should be looking after my child by doing something to stop in-app purchases because I’m too [email protected]@cking lazy!

    • Lmao! Agreed! :-p

    • By the way, before any of you come criticizing me with your high morals, let me tell you that I’ve done my parenting for the day! I’ve packed my son’s lunch box with a selection of Jacob’s Club bar fruit (one of his five a day!), some Sunny D, Dairylee Lunchables and 2 Mars bars for energy.

      Oh, and I set standards as well – If he gets a gold star today I’ll get him GTA V to play on his xbox he has in his bedroom.

      • Xbox? You are the worst kind of parent.

        *calls RSPCC*

    • Haha, perfect. For a second I thought you were serious.
      One thing, though. I had my own gaming consoles in my room since I was around 8 and I turned out just fine (my fiancé probably disagrees…). :P

  2. “I don’t think children are always aware that when they click ‘yes’ it’s spending money,” Cavendish Elithorn, executive director at the OFT, told the BBC. – Of course children don’t always realize this, they are children, young people who know nothing at birth and learn as they go along and rely to a certain extent on their parents to educate them… and that’s where the flaw is, parents educating their children.

    Instead of the OFT looking in to this and taking a ‘we must kerb this type of transaction’, they should look instead at the state of the parents who own devices and look to educate them on the pitfalls and traps, and then impress upon the parents that it is their responsibility to look after their own children.

    • Good luck with that.

      • Hmmm, on second thoughts, my strategy seems like it might be a little too difficult and might incur the wrath of some chavvy parents. Best the OFT stick with their persecution of commercial companies, a much easier target.

  3. They should look at the amount some of these companies charge for what is essentailly a consumable. I mean £70 for some virtually donoughts to spend in tapped out is just ludicrous.

    • I accept some games do charge quite a lot for in-app stuff but games cost a lot of money to develop.
      Ultimately this is a parenting problem.

    • Why should ‘they’ look it to prices charged? It’s a market economy and the customer will pay, or not pay, for an item after reviewing the price. It’s the customer’s own choice whether to pay £70 for some virtual doughnuts. Are you proposing a more Ed Milliband style of socialist intervention in the market by government? How do you think businesses will react to that? I take it that you don’t run your own business.

  4. Given the huge amount of freemium games about they’ll be very busy checking them all. Maybe they should look at EA’s full price “legacy” editions whilst they’re at it.

  5. About time. We are talking about ‘Fair Trading’ here after all and clearly it in many cases it really isn’t.

    • Oh this is too tempting. Please tell me what isn’t fair, a specific example please…

      • The example given above about the virtual animals for a mutual start.

        I’m sure you can debate the whole parent thing, but fact is tablets are increasingly attractive to children, and some games are arguably aimed at them as a demographic. So ‘fair’ where children are concerned is a different type of fair with adults.

        But I’m seriously not going to argue it further as everyone’s measure of ‘fair’ is I’m sure, and most unfortunately, different. Not to mention you seem intent on arguing against most comments above as well as with OFT.

  6. Educate the parents, who should then educate their children. There wouldn’t be half as much trouble then.

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