TIGA called for the OFT to work towards a common global approach to the F2P market and to clearly set out the responsibilities of developers/digital publishers from platform holders. TIGA has previously submitted substantial evidence about free-to-play (F2P) video games and the freemium business model to the OFT.
The OFT’s Children’s Online Games sets out eight industry wide principles to clarify the games industry’s obligations under consumer protection law, some of which take into account TIGA’s recommendations.
TIGA articulated a number of recommendations and comments in its response to the OFT’s consultation document. These include:
The OFT should take a consistent, global approach. The UK’s mobile and online games developers represent a small fraction of the global F2P development industry. Therefore the OFT should work with its counterparts in the EU, the USA and across the globe to adopt a common approach to the F2P market.
The OFT should ensure clarity of responsibility. The OFT’s principles should indicate where primary responsibility rests: with platform holders or with developers/digital publishers. For example, platform holders should ultimately be responsible for adhering to the OFT’s principle 8 which deals with the issue of unauthorised payments.
Information is critical. Parents should have access to information that can enable them to prevent accidental payments. All major smartphone and tablet platforms and app stores contain parental and/or payment controls that can be used to block all accidental purchases whether these are paid downloads or in-app purchases. Parents need to be made aware of these controls. The platform holders and the OFT should ensure that clear information on IAP controls is available.
Dr. Richard Wilson, CEO, TIGA commented:
“The UK’s mobile and online games developers represent a small fraction of the global F2P development industry. If UK consumers are to be effectively protected and if we are to avoid the regulation of the UK market becoming misaligned with the rest of the world, then the OFT should work with its counterparts in the EU, the USA and across the globe to adopt a common approach to the F2P market.
“More generally, the OFT’s principles should indicate where primary responsibility rests: with platform holders or with developers/digital publishers. In critical areas, for example, in respect of unauthorised payments, the key responsibility will typically lie with platform holders.
“TIGA has been working with the OFT and it is good to see that some of our recommendations have been taken into account, especially the principle of price transparency. It is important that the OFT continues to take into consideration the consistent global approach needed for both child protection and for the export-driven nature UK video game industry.”
The OFT will publish a finalised version of the Principles in late January/early February 2014. After April 1st 2014 enforcement action will be taken again businesses in breach of consumer protection law.