UK: OFT publishes results of freemium study

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The UK’s consumer watchdog, the Office of Fair Trading, has published the results of its consultation into the business practices of games providers, with a particular focus on the relationship between such products and the children who may access them.

The consultation began in April. The published results come at a very interesting time for the social gaming industry, particularly those who offer social games with casino-style dynamics, as the debate around whether such products should be the subject of licensing requirements continues within the regulator community. It is not uncommon to read claims that such games are “unregulated”. The impact of this study is likely to be felt within the development community and adds weight to its claim that their activities are far from unregulated.

Whilst the industry itself discusses concepts such as “best practice” and “self-regulation”, the OFT has published a draft set of 8 “Principles” that will need to be adopted and that seek to ensure the proper recognition of consumer legislation by developers.

It will be interesting to see the form the proposed enforcement takes, stated to commence in April. Before then, the draft Principles, themselves, are subject to further consultation ending on 21 November.

This is an important time for the social gaming community. The OFT’s position is based on EU-wide consumer legislation, so the impact of this study may be felt across the Continent as other Member States pay closer attention to the social gaming phenomenon.

Read the Report here.