Simon Read: Let's hope the watchdog's clampdown will stop games companies tricking kids

 

As a father of two teenage boys I was very pleased to see the Office of Fair Trading's crackdown this week on the online games industry.

The watchdog has given games producers a deadline of 1 April to comply with new rules which force them to ensure people know the cost of a game before they start playing and clicking.

I've written several times of my anger at so-called freemium app games which cost nothing to download but then trick kids to spend hundreds of pounds on in-game treasures or trophies.

They are constantly encouraged to pay for must-have content such as upgraded membership or virtual currency in forms including coins, gems or fruit.

The games industry is making millions of pounds of profits by exploiting young people in this way. And with kids often more tech savvy than their parents, they can easily pick up passwords which gives them online access to parents' bank accounts or credit cards.

A report published last year estimated that parents were forced to stump up an extra £30m in the previous 12 months after their children accessed their smartphones and iPads and used them to play games and buy extras.

It's called drip-pricing and it's very misleading for unwary consumers. Effectively unscrupulous games companies wait until someone is hooked on a game and then tell them that they need to pay out if they want to get to a higher level or complete it.

The new rules should help stop this happening. Costs will have to be shown clearly and prominently before the consumer begins to play, download or sign up to a game.

The costs must also be broken down to specify the cost of signing up as well as optional in-game extras which can be bought.

The rules also make clear that in-game payments must not be taken and will be considered unauthorised unless - and this is the crucial bit - the payment account holder, normally the child's parent, has given his or her express, informed consent.

When parents see that completing a game may cost hundreds of pounds, they are much less likely to let their children play.

If you know that letting a child complete a game on your phone or iPad would cost, say, £500, would you give your blessing?

Of course not. I hope the new rules stamp out the dodgy practices. If games companies can't make enough profit from fair upfront pricing then they need to rethink their business plan.

In future that plan should not be simply based around tricking kids into handing over cash.

s.read@independent.co.uk

Twitter: @simonnread

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

    £16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea