FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

February 23, 2011 -

The Federal Trade Commission revealed on Tuesday that it plans to look into "free to play" after several politicians complained about thousands of dollars in transactions initiated unknowingly by young children. The investigation is the result of a letter sent to the agency by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) complaining about children buying virtual items without their parents' consent (hint: it involves Smurf berries).

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz responded to Markey that the practice of in-app purchases in iPhone and iPad games "raised concerns" that consumers may not understand the full ramifications of the charges they might face.

"We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases," Leibowitz wrote. "Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications."

An FTC spokesperson confirmed the letter, but would not comment further. Apple did not respond to the report.

“After the Washington Post first broke this story earlier this month, I sent the Federal Trade Commission a letter calling on the agency to investigate the issue of 'in-app' purchases and provide additional information about the promotion and delivery of these applications to consumers, especially with respect to children," Markey said in a statement. "What may appear in these games to be virtual coins and prizes to children result in very real costs to parents. I am pleased that the FTC has responded, and as the use of mobile apps continues to increase, I will continue to actively monitor developments in this important area."

Source: Washington Post


Comments

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

The nanny-state gets bigger and bigger. Children get more infantiled and babied. There is a reason I consider myself a libertarian now even if I disagree strongly with many of their policies. Society is Fucked.

"No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

"No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

Once again an example of goverment being parents of kids because there real parents dosn't do anything for them.

http://www.magicinkgaming.com/

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

I don't know, I think this might be a legit case of deceptive sales practices.

It is similiar to cases we used to see about cell phone (or landline) companies charging accounts for calling numbers that we not immediatly obvious as having a fee associated with them.  Dialing a 1-900 number you know you will see something on your phone bill, call a 1-800 or 1-215 and you would not expect to, yet for a while you could bind payment to any number.  Cell phones have chargebacks on SMS numbers, of where there is no way to easily tell ahead of time if it will end up on your bill... both of these have been investigated but phone companies were powerful enough to keep getting away with it.

Here, you have a game that has automatic access to your phone account, and it might not be obvious to an adult that hitting a brightly coloured button on the screen will automaticly charge to thier account or saved CC information.

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

How exactly does this work?  Do you just click "Buy Smurfberry" and it charges your account?  At what point do you enter credit card information?

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

The sales are made through the iOS Payment APIs and the iPhone looks like it might save credit card inormation and so it would be relatively easy for someone to purchase by mistake.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

AFAIK, it's not the device itself that stores the credit card information: it's the Apple iTunes/App store. You need to have an iTunes account to download ANYTHING to an iDevice.

I have an iPod touch, not an iPhone, but there is a setting on the iPod touch that will completely prevent in-app purchases. It's not hard to find, either. You can also sign out of the store at any time (meaning you have to put the password in again to make any in-app purchases or download an app) or you can just disable downloading altogether.

(This is all based on my experience with the iPod Touch; I can't imagine that it's a whole lot different on other iDevices. It'd be pretty foolish to make the setups all that different, imo.)

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

That is what I would like to know.

As much of a concern as it is to get charges to one's credit card, are you forced to store your credit card? Can you remove it and to a 'charge as you go' as many/most websites allow?

It seems like it really should have been pretty easy to keep kids from racking up these charges by not having a credit card anywhere near the game.

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

Is the government actively trying to make children stupid?  By the time a kid is 13 (the age most on line anything reccomends before young users are left alone), he should understand what it means to buy something.   

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

Governments trying to shut down or limit access to online games. Governments trying to control in-game transactions. It's all only a matter of time, I suppose. Personally, I don't think that in-game transactions made directly in real-world cash should be made easily and/or seemlessly. In comparison, something like Nexon's NX, AeriaGames points, or Microsoft's MSP aren't really all that bad since (unless your credit card is attached to your account/console) you have to buy the points separately.

A case where easier isn't necessarily better.

 

 

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

So.. basically we have the old 1-900 argument going on again.   Well, I am sure the right person will get slushed and things will continue as they have been, just like cell phone charges.

 
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james_fudgere: MP, i've sent tech support a note - thank you :)09/23/2014 - 3:14pm
IanCNah that wasnt directed at you Andrew :)09/23/2014 - 3:00pm
Papa MidnightRe: SIEGE 2014 Keynote: oh dear...09/23/2014 - 2:44pm
MaskedPixelanteDear GP, something called "doubleverify" is causing some nasty browser issues on my end. Probably one of your ads.09/23/2014 - 2:36pm
Andrew EisenOh hell no. No, it took Nintendo a dog's age just to get to the point its competitors have been at for a while! (And it's still not there yet, in a lot of respects.)09/23/2014 - 2:26pm
IanCSame as PSN handles it, fi you are trying to say only nintendo do that.09/23/2014 - 2:23pm
Andrew EisenYou have to try to purchase something first. Pick a game, hit purchase and if your wallet doesn't have enough to cover it, you'll be given an option to "add exact funds" or something like that.09/23/2014 - 2:05pm
MonteI have seen no option for that on my 3DS; anytime i want to add funds it only gives me the option to add in denominations of $10, 20, 50 or 10009/23/2014 - 2:03pm
IanCWhat Andrew Wilson said. PSN is the same when you make a purchase over a certain price (£5 in the UK)09/23/2014 - 2:02pm
Andrew EisenNeither eShop charges sales tax either. At least in California.09/23/2014 - 2:00pm
Andrew EisenBoth Wii U and 3DS eShops allow you to add funds in the exact amount of whatever's in your shopping cart. If your game is $39.99, you can add exactly $39.99.09/23/2014 - 1:57pm
Infophile@Matthew Wilson: As I understand it, any regulations to force tax online would also set up an easy database for these stores to use, minimizing overhead.09/23/2014 - 1:30pm
MonteReally, the eshop just does next to nothing to make buying digitally advantagous for the customer. Its nice to have the game on my 3DS, but i can get more for less buying a physical copy at retail. And that's not even counting buying used09/23/2014 - 1:18pm
MonteIanC, The Eshop wallet system only lets you add funds in set denominations and the tax makes sure you no longer have round numbers so you ALWAYS loose money. A $39.99 game for instance requires you to add $50 instead of just $4009/23/2014 - 1:13pm
Matthew Wilsonbut thats just it those sites, even the small ones, sell all over the country.09/23/2014 - 11:12am
Neenekoeither that or it would follow the car model of today. big ticket items are taxed according to your residence, not where you buy them.09/23/2014 - 11:07am
NeenekoI doubt it would be the retailer that handles the tax in the first place. If it goes through it would probably be folded in as a service on the processor end or via 'turbotax' style applications.09/23/2014 - 11:05am
Matthew Wilsonsimple there are over 10k tax areas in the us for sales tax. it would be impossible for small online retailers to handle that.09/23/2014 - 10:55am
IanCWhats wrong with charging tax in an online shop?09/23/2014 - 10:47am
E. Zachary KnightI don't see why it would be that difficult to maintain one. Especially for a news outlet with multiple people on the payroll.09/23/2014 - 9:37am
 

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