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Guidance for online and in-app games

The OFT has published eight final principles for online and in-app games, and given games producers a deadline of 1st April 2014 to ensure that their games do not breach consumer protection law.

31/01/2014

The document sets out each of the principles together with useful scenarios that are more or less likely, in the OFT’s view, to be compliant. Whilst the principles are directed at games businesses and platform operators and not advertisers, Principle 4 states:

“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. The younger he/she is, the more difficult it is likely to be for a consumer to identify the commercial intent of a commercial practice in certain contexts, and the language, design and structure of the game should take that into account.”

Agencies and their games clients need, therefore, to ensure that, as with any other medium, any in-game advertising is transparent.

The Principles also focus on the protection of children. In addition to Principle 4, Principle 6 prohibits “practices that are aggressive, or which otherwise have the potential to exploit a child’s inherent inexperience, vulnerability or credulity or to place undue influence or pressure on a child to make a purchase” and Principle 7 prohibits games from including “direct exhortations to children to make a purchase or persuade others to make purchases for them”, echoing the Consumer Protection Regulations and CAP Code.

The general notes to the Principles recommend games businesses to familiarise themselves not just with consumer protection law but with rules and guidance from CAP and BCAP too.

Says Richard Lindsay, IPA Legal Director: "With the increasing focus on gaming and the raft of changes being brought into the consumer protection landscape, the OFT’s stance is understandable. As with any other medium, agencies and their clients need to ensure that their advertising is transparent and, in particular, that children are protected. Online gaming is no different."

Last updated 31/01/2014


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