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The OFT’s proposed Principles for free to play online & mobile games

Child Playing Poker

Principle 1

  • Information about the costs associated with a game should be provided clearly, accurately and prominently up-front before the consumer begins to play, download or sign up to it or agrees to make a purchase.

Principle 2

  • All material information about the game should be clear, accurate, prominent and provided up-front, before the consumer begins to play, download or sign up to it or agrees to make a purchase. ‘Material information’ includes any information necessary for the average consumer to make an informed decision to play, download or sign up to the game or to make a purchase.

Principle 3

  • Information about the business should be clear, accurate, prominent and provided up-front, before the consumer begins to play, download or sign up to the game or agrees to make a purchase. It should be clear to the consumer who he/she ought to contact in case of queries or complaints. The business should be capable of being contacted rapidly and communicated with in  a direct and effective manner.

Principle 4

  • The commercial intent of any in-game promotion of paid-for content, or promotion of any other product or service, should be clear and distinguishable from gameplay.

Principle 5

  • A game should not mislead consumers by giving the false impression that payments are required or are an integral part of the way the game is played if that is not the case.

Principle 6

  • Games should not include practices that are aggressive, or which otherwise have the potential to exploit a child’s inherent inexperience, vulnerability or credulity. The younger a child is, the greater the likely impact those practices will have, and the language, design, visual interface and structure of the game should take account of that.

Principle 7

  • A game should not include direct exhortations to children to make a purchase or persuade others to make purchases for them.

Principle 8

  • Payments should not be taken from the payment account holder unless authorised. A payment made in a game is not authorised unless informed consent for that payment has been given by the payment account holder. The scope of the agreement and the amount to be debited should be made clear to the consumer so he/she can give informed consent. Consent should not be assumed, for example through the use of opt-out provisions, and the consumer should positively indicate his/her informed consent

 Note:

‘Games likely to appeal to children’

  • For the purpose of these Principles, the OFT considers that a child is likely to be considered a person under the age of 16, however traders should be aware that in some circumstances contracts entered into with people under 18 can be set aside. It may be reasonably foreseeable that a game is likely to appeal to children through its content, style and/or presentation. The OFT  considers that a game that has some or all of the attributes included in this indicative and non-exhaustive list is likely to appeal to children. Consideration should be given to the likely audience before designing commercial messages communicated to consumers and deciding whether a direct exhortation is to be included:
  • Inclusion of characters popular with or likely to appeal to children
  • Cartoon-like graphics
  • Bright colours
  • Simplistic gameplay and/or language
  • The game concerns an activity that is likely to appeal to or be popular with children
  • The game is available to download, sign up to or purchase by anyone and is not age-restricted
  • Whether children are known to play the game.

 

 

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