The UK’s Office of Fair Trading has today published its final “principles” for free-to-play games, after starting an investigation back in April last year. Publishers have until April 1st to comply to the regulations or their titles breach UK consumer law and may result in legal action … 

The 23 page document states that game developers must make users aware of any potential costs upfront. Notices regarding the use of personal data for marketing must also be made clear. The user of the game must also ensure that the payment is authorised by the account holder before any transaction takes place.

Many of the requirements in the document are quite broad in their definition and are likely to affect thousands of titles in the App Store. For instance, the document says that games should not “include direct exhortations to children to make a purchase.” Depending on how strictly this wording is applied, many games on the store today likely violate these rules.

From April 1st, these rules will apply to any software titles that incorporate in-app purchases available in the UK. Consultation on these rules opened in September last year. The OFT said:

‘The on-line and apps based games industry has already made significant improvements during our consultation process. But it still needs to do more to protect children and treat its customers fairly.

‘Our principles make clear the type of practices that games makers and platform operators should avoid.

‘Parents and carers have an important role to help protect their child and their bank balance. Our advice is that parents check their device settings, play their child’s games themselves and read the game’s description online. Parents will also be encouraged to report concerns to Citizens Advice