The Government body is to examine free apps that offer in-game purchases and the way they target children

Office of Fair Trading to investigate in-app purchases

The OFT has announced it is to investigate free smartphone and online games that offer in-app purchases.

It follows growing concerns over the apps, which whilst free to download, offer in-game benefits that can be purchased in return for real currency. As a result, unknowing users – mostly children – are spending fortunes in-game unaware of the consequences.

The OFT has reached out to publishers over the games in order to examine how the games’ marketing targets children, and explore whether such games are misleading or commercially aggressive, by excessively encouraging users to make an in-game purchase.

Additionally, the OFT has encouraged parents to contact the body over their own experiences and incidents.

Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Senior Director for Goods and Consumer, said: "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."

Despite the investigation, the body maintains it is not working towards the removal of the payment structure, but merely addressing the growing number of high-profile incidents, including 13-year old Cameron Crossan, who managed to spend over £3,700 in one such game.

"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. We are speaking to the industry and will take enforcement action if necessary."

The first report is expected by October.

Tablet image from Shutterstock

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