The United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) watchdog agency has given mobile phone app developers two months to adapt to new in-app purchasing rules that better protect children (and subsequently their credit-card holding parents) from in-game micro-transactions and messaging that generally encourages them to buy things to advance gameplay. The OFT has given developers a deadline of April 1 to make their apps for iOS, Windows Phone, and Android devices comply with new rules. The principles were announced last September and the OFT is expected to publish a finalized list later today.
Developers who do not comply with these new rules will be in breach of UK consumer protection laws and could risk being on the receiving end of an "enforcement action."
These new rules call for developers to tell consumers upfront about any costs associated with the app in question or any in-game advertising. App developers are also required to inform customers if their personal data is to be shared with third parties for marketing purposes. In-app purchases cannot be automatically made anymore either – the payment account holder has to give "express, informed consent."
The OFT is also expected to publish a list of guidelines for UK parents to make sure they understand when their children are being pressured into making in-app purchases. The guidelines inform parents how to change payment option settings on their devices so that a password is required for every purchase, how to check in advance to see whether a game has any in-app purchase requirements, and how to see if the game contains social elements. The guidelines also urge parents to play the game themselves to understand what their children are playing.