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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ZippyDSMleeuuuhhhggg in other news been sick since last night.....uuhggg.....I iwsh it did not hurt so much when my tummy wants to leave my body..02/28/2015 - 11:39pm
ZippyDSMleeBrings me to the Q why alt costumes would be needed in competition anyway... http://www.eventhubs.com/news/2015/feb/28/dead-or-alive-community-aims-ban-over-120-overly-sexualized-costumes-dead-or-alive-5-last-round/02/28/2015 - 11:36pm
MonteThough from a business side, i would agree with the article. While it would be smarter for developers to slow down, you can't expect EA, Activision or ubisoft to do something like that. Nintnedo's gotta get the third party back.02/28/2015 - 4:36pm
MonteThough it does also help that nintendo's more colorful style is a lot less reliant on graphics than more realistic games. Wind Waker is over 10 years old and still looks good for its age.02/28/2015 - 4:33pm
MonteWith the Wii, nintnedo had the right idea. Hold back on shiny graphics and focus on the gameplay experience. Unfortunatly everyone else keeps pushing for newer graphics and it matters less and less each generation. I can barely notice the difference02/28/2015 - 4:29pm
MonteON third party developers; i kinda think they should slow down to nintendo's pace. They bemoan the rising costs of AAA gaming, but then constantly push for the best graphics which is makes up a lot of those costs. Be easier to afford if they held back02/28/2015 - 4:27pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2015/02/28/the-world-is-nintendos-if-only-theyd-take-it/ I think this is a interesting op-ed, but yeah it kind of is stating the obvious.02/28/2015 - 2:52pm
prh99The government probably doesn't need an app, but I was think more along the lines of a company that was going to sell the collected info. “If you're not paying for the product, you are the product” sometimes even if you pay.02/28/2015 - 1:50pm
E. Zachary KnightWhat better way for the government to keep track of you than to get you to install an app that lets you insult the government.02/28/2015 - 11:03am
prh99No, but I looked it up and it's basically spyware. Their privacy policy says their apps tracks among other things your location and browsing habits via cookies.02/28/2015 - 8:20am
Ryan RardinHas anyone here heard of an app called iCitizen? It's basically Yelp for politicians.02/28/2015 - 5:16am
Andrew EisenAh, not linked in the way you (and everyone else) want and expect. That's true.02/27/2015 - 10:06pm
Matthew Wilsonthey are not linked in a way that tracks purchases though. the fact that they have to send a code for the other system shows that they are not linked in the way it counts.02/27/2015 - 9:39pm
Andrew EisenAccounts are already linked. Have been for quite a while. Also, Mario vs. Donkey Kong was announced as a cross-buy title during last January's Nintendo Direct.02/27/2015 - 9:25pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.vg247.com/20…/…/27/olli-olli-3ds-wii-u-cross-buy/ I wounder if this is a sign that Nintendo may finally link accounts across the 3ds/wiiu in the near future.02/27/2015 - 9:18pm
prh99http://www.romanoriginals.co.uk/invt/70931?colour=Blue The dress does comes in white and blue but both have black lace and a sheer back top, I don't see gold or brown. 02/27/2015 - 8:54pm
ZippyDSMleeDungeons was a so bad so good game to me so I been keeping up with its sequel which will more of a Dungeon Keeper clone. As for pre order out of 7 preorders I was not burnt by 2... Add my contempt of most of modern game design.Ya I have all kinds of hurt.02/27/2015 - 8:40pm
MechaTama31I don't even want to know...02/27/2015 - 8:22pm
ZippyDSMleeFun? I can do fun…. I think LOL. Dungeons 2 is on preorder but not via steam... >> Hell I am breaking all kinds of personal butthurt rules to even THINK about pre order...02/27/2015 - 8:12pm
E. Zachary KnightHad some fun discussions about that dumb dress on Facebook. I opened the original picture in GIMP and sampled the colors and determined them to be Blue and Gold. People still say I am wrong.02/27/2015 - 7:41pm
 

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