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Office of fair trading to investigate in-app purchasing

The Office of Fair Trading is set to investigate what it describes as “aggressive” in-app purchases, especially in games aimed at children, following on from several instances where kids playing on parents’ phones has resulted in bills that are thousands of pounds deep.

“We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs,” said Cavendish Elithorn, the OFT’s senior director for goods and consumer (via BBC).

inapp
I bet a couple of those parents wish they’d found this button first.

There have been several high profile incidents of children buying add-ons and extra features that they believed were free, since the app itself was. One instance saw a five year old spend £1,700 while playing Zombies versus Pirates, while another had a father report his son for fraud, after the kid ramped up £3,700 worth of debt during a game – it was the only way he stood a chance of getting a refund.

In its report, the OFT is looking to make sure that in-app purchases are not inherently aggressive and pressuring users into paying for them. Likewise, it wants to make sure that app-makers are complying with all relevant laws.

KitGuru Says: I’m all for developers making themselves some money, but I hate getting into a game and finding out that really, you need to invest £20 or so in order to continue. If I knew it was a demo I may have paid up front for it, I don’t want to just be getting into it and have to break my immersion by whipping out the debit card. 

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