The Office of Fair Trading, according to a press release, is going to launch a six-month long investigation into “whether children are being unfairly pressured or encouraged to pay for additional content in ‘free’ web and app-based games, including upgraded membership or virtual currency such as coins, gems or fruit.”
There are quite a few web and app-based games which can be accessed or downloaded for free, but upgrades or the full games cost money. Children tend to want to play the full game and get cool new upgrades and so they do pay, but it’s the parents that end up with bills for completely pointless things.
“We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs,” said Cavendish Elithorn, Senior Director for Goods and Consumer at OFT. “The OFT is not seeking to ban in-game purchases, but the games industry must ensure it is complying with the relevant regulations so that children are protected.”
The OFT is rightfully concerned, after the incident involving a five-year old boy who downloaded £69.99 add-on nineteen times in about ten-fifteen minutes while playing Zombie Vs Ninja on his parents’ iPad, and his parents found out that this mistake cost them £1,700, although Apple has refunded the full amount.