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CMA refers three children’s online games to the ASA

The CMA has referred 3 online games to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to consider whether to launch investigations.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is concerned that these games may breach the Advertising Codes and consumer law by directly encouraging children to buy, or ask their parents to buy, extra game features.

The referral results from the CMA’s monitoring of the sector following the publication in January 2014 of the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) Principles for online and app-based games.

This action is part of the CMA’s wider work to encourage the industry to address issues relating to how online and app-based games are advertised and paid for. The CMA has worked closely with the European Commission, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, and national consumer protection authorities around the world.

As a result of the joint work Google and Apple made changes, in particular to strengthen payment authorisation settings and to ask games makers to stop describing games as ‘free’ when they contain in-game purchases. These changes are designed to prevent parents being landed with unexpected bills arising from in-game purchases made by their children.

The CMA has today also published advice for parents on what to look out for when their children are downloading and playing online and app-based games.

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, said:

“75% of 10- to 15-year-olds in the UK play video games every day, so it’s clear that they are a significant part of children’s lives.

“We have seen some positive changes in business practices since we started looking at this sector. However, we are concerned that some games may directly encourage children to buy extra features during the game. We have therefore referred these games to the ASA to consider whether they breach the Advertising Codes.”

Miles Lockwood, ASA Director of Investigations, said:

“It’s crucial that the ads children see, hear and interact with don’t confuse, mislead or directly exhort them to make purchases.

“We welcome the CMA’s referrals and will now establish whether the ads break the rules and to ensure children are treated fairly.”

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