OFT consultation on in-app purchases

Following its investigation in April 2013, the Office of Fair Trading has launched a consultation relating to in-app purchases for mobile apps and games played on a mobile device or through a web browser. The OFT is keen to combat perceived exploitation by developers which predominantly targets children. It is concerned about a lack of clear information on costs which may influence a consumer’s decision to download or play a game, as well as children being encouraged, whether directly or indirectly, to make an in-app purchase.

Proposals for new principles would include providing users with full information about a game and its costs before the user is able to download or play and distinguishing core gameplay from in-app purchases. The OFT also wants to clamp down on any information which would falsely lead to consumers believing a purchase is necessary to progress in a game and to ensure that developers do not exploit children into making such purchases.

In-app purchases have provoked the ire of parents across the country, with children making unauthorised purchases and leaving their parents to foot the bill. In the meantime, parents are able to mitigate the danger of unwanted purchases being made by changing the settings on their devices and requiring some form of authorisation, such as a password or pass code, before a payment can be made from the device.

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