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.

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Which Feminist Frequency video are you looking forward to most?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Goth_SkunkAs such, the first playthrough is always going to be the most evocative.01/30/2015 - 3:47pm
Goth_SkunkSo while branching storyline is hallmarked as a feature of the game, the storyline never stays branched for too long. There is a linear story that may branch at points, but each branch always comes right back to the main line further down the road.01/30/2015 - 3:46pm
Goth_SkunkMy biggest gripe about it though would have to be that its replay value sucks. I quickly learned that apart from a few key decisions you make, most choices end up not being relevant because something terrible happens anyway.01/30/2015 - 3:45pm
Goth_SkunkI *love* The Walking Dead. Like I said, I played Season 1 through in one go, and subsequently pre-purchased Season 2 in its entirety sight-unseen.01/30/2015 - 3:43pm
Andrew EisenBy the by, I take it you're a fan of Telltale's Walking Dead? I'm one of the very few who really doesn't like it. Bums me out.01/30/2015 - 3:39pm
Andrew EisenI think we're safe with stuff like Life is Strange, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, and TellTale's games. I was thinking more along the lines of D4. It's genuinely up in the air whether we'll get a conclusion to that story or not.01/30/2015 - 3:33pm
Goth_SkunkUltimately, from this potentially ignorant perspective, it's the gamer who assumes the risk, not the developer. I don't approve. Fortunately, I'm only paying $5 (CDN, no less), so that's money I can easily write off if I'm disappointed.01/30/2015 - 3:32pm
Goth_SkunkIf I'm wrong, and the unthinkable should happen where the developer ends up aborting production of the rest of the episodes, bundle purchasers would be understandably upset. Even moreso if attempting to get a refund turns out to be a hassle.01/30/2015 - 3:30pm
Goth_SkunkThere is an option on XBL to purchase all episodes in a bundle. Pay full price now, get the rest of the episodes as they're released. I would like to think this means that the other episodes are in fact done and ready.01/30/2015 - 3:29pm
Andrew EisenCatch 22 sometimes. Some gamers don't want to buy it if there's no guarantee the whole thing will come out and the whole thing can't come out unless enough people buy the early installments.01/30/2015 - 3:17pm
Goth_SkunkI sincerely hope this trend towards episodic games is not done so because the developer only had enough capital to produce the first 1/5th of the story and is banking on making enough money from the sales of that fifth to produce the rest.01/30/2015 - 3:16pm
Goth_SkunkThat being said, I want to try Life is Strange to get my feet wet.01/30/2015 - 3:13pm
Andrew EisenI'm that way too. I'll wait until the whole thing is out. Same goes for DVDs of TV shows. I'll wait for the season set.01/30/2015 - 3:13pm
Goth_SkunkIf an episodic game is really good, and the time between episodes is more than a week, I'm more inclined to wait for the rest of the episodes to all come out than to try playing it episode by episode at launch date.01/30/2015 - 3:12pm
Goth_SkunkAs someone who played through TWD Season 1 entirely in one day, and then played Season 2 episode by episode when they each came out, I strongly agree with this sentiment.01/30/2015 - 3:11pm
Goth_SkunkFrom what I've been hearing, people haven't been buying it because they're sick of episodic games where they have to wait 6 weeks or more between episodes and they'd rather just wait for the whole thing to come out at once.01/30/2015 - 3:10pm
Andrew EisenNot sure what GamerGate could do to dissuade people from buying a game they'd otherwise be interested in or why it would even want to but I agree, I think the premise is interesting and look forward to learning more about how it actually plays.01/30/2015 - 2:58pm
Goth_SkunkAnd for what it's worth, I saw Life is Strange advertised today on XBL, and the premise looks very, very intriguing. I'm going to buy it today and give it a shot.01/30/2015 - 2:42pm
Goth_SkunkI'm hearing rumours that the recently released game Life is Strange is not selling very well on Steam, and that GamerGate is being blamed as a result. It's just a rumour though.01/30/2015 - 2:42pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://smashboards.com/threads/apex-2015-venue-changed-competition-will-restart-tomorrow.388991/ twitch saves apex2015 tournament after original location gets condemned.01/30/2015 - 2:37pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician