South Korea’s FTC Reviewing In-Game Purchase Policies
South Korea’s antitrust regulator said Friday it will carry out an extensive review of the consumer regulations of game firms. The Fair Trade Commission has contacted 10 game companies, including Nexon NCSoft, Blizzard and Riot Games, for their opinion.
Both computer and mobile games clauses are subject to a review. Part of the sweeping reviews include, but are not limited to, clauses regarding underage users’ in-game purchases.
An FTC representative said that some in-game purchase policies, including restrictions on refunds, failure to explicitly require parental permission to make purchases, and the use of “misappropriate conduct” clauses to shut down players who complain, are “unfair.” The rep also stated (ominously, I would think, although it’s impossible to pick up on tone from a printed report) that game companies could make changes to their policies voluntarily, or they could be forced to do so.
A spokesperson for the FTC told The Korea Herald that the FTC sees such clauses as “unfair.”
“Some news reports suggest that it may become easier for people to get refunds for in-game purchases if they can prove that their children used credit cards without permission,” he continued. “But if an underage user actively deceives parents, that’s on the kids. If a minor spends more than the legally allowed amount of 70,000 won ($62) a month, he or she will be held accountable.”
The FTC is reviewing the matter on a much wider scale. Some clauses hint that parental approval is needed when teenagers sign up for a game the facto parental permission. Some game companies limit refunds for in-game items and cash presents, even when the receiving party has yet to accept the gift. Gifted items sometimes have an unfair limited period of use. When a player publicly states inconveniences, a company should consider the “misappropriate conduct” and limit that player’s game use.
Similar concerns were raised in the US regarding children’s purchases of in-game items. Earlier this year, Facebook was under fire for creating a system in which children spent tens of millions of dollars of parents’ money on its games.
The U.S. FTC To Hold August Workshop On Consumer Issues Related To Loot Boxes to look into loot boxes, after growing concerns about how they are marketed to consumers. Particularly, there are concerns that purchasing video game loot boxes, which contain an assortment of random in-game items that aren’t revealed until after purchase, mimics gambling and is enticing for young players.