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UK Office of Fair Trading warns of targeting children with in-app purchases

The U.K. Office of Fair Trading released a report advising the video game industry not to target children with in-app purchases and establishing a set of criteria for creating revenue models that aren't "misleading, aggressive or otherwise unfair," according to a press release from the organization.

In April 2013, the OFT launched an investigation into "the ways in which online and app-based games encourage children to make purchases," using 38 games that the organization "considered were likely to appeal to children." Representatives from the OFT also met with "several industry stakeholders" to discuss their concerns.

The resulting report, "Children's Online Games: report and consultation" (PDF link), establishes a set of principles and remedies for industry-wide practices that would, they feel, better conform to consumer protection law.

Those principles include making information about the costs associated with games clear, accurate and up front, before the consumer begins to play, providing easy-to-access information for contacting the games' creators and more.

"The OFT considers that consumers need clear, accurate and prominent information up-front to enable them to take informed transactional decisions and to be able to compare products," the report reads. "Without clear, accurate and timely information relating to, for example, the costs associated with a product or service and/or how they are calculated, its main characteristics, unusual or onerous contractual terms or how to contact the business if things go wrong, the consumer may take a decision that he/she would otherwise not have taken, such as buying, downloading or signing up for something. The omission of such information can therefore have the potential to mislead consumers."

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