FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

February 23, 2011 -

The Federal Trade Commission revealed on Tuesday that it plans to look into "free to play" after several politicians complained about thousands of dollars in transactions initiated unknowingly by young children. The investigation is the result of a letter sent to the agency by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) complaining about children buying virtual items without their parents' consent (hint: it involves Smurf berries).

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz responded to Markey that the practice of in-app purchases in iPhone and iPad games "raised concerns" that consumers may not understand the full ramifications of the charges they might face.

"We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases," Leibowitz wrote. "Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications."

An FTC spokesperson confirmed the letter, but would not comment further. Apple did not respond to the report.

“After the Washington Post first broke this story earlier this month, I sent the Federal Trade Commission a letter calling on the agency to investigate the issue of 'in-app' purchases and provide additional information about the promotion and delivery of these applications to consumers, especially with respect to children," Markey said in a statement. "What may appear in these games to be virtual coins and prizes to children result in very real costs to parents. I am pleased that the FTC has responded, and as the use of mobile apps continues to increase, I will continue to actively monitor developments in this important area."

Source: Washington Post


Comments

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

The nanny-state gets bigger and bigger. Children get more infantiled and babied. There is a reason I consider myself a libertarian now even if I disagree strongly with many of their policies. Society is Fucked.

"No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

"No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

Once again an example of goverment being parents of kids because there real parents dosn't do anything for them.

http://www.magicinkgaming.com/

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

I don't know, I think this might be a legit case of deceptive sales practices.

It is similiar to cases we used to see about cell phone (or landline) companies charging accounts for calling numbers that we not immediatly obvious as having a fee associated with them.  Dialing a 1-900 number you know you will see something on your phone bill, call a 1-800 or 1-215 and you would not expect to, yet for a while you could bind payment to any number.  Cell phones have chargebacks on SMS numbers, of where there is no way to easily tell ahead of time if it will end up on your bill... both of these have been investigated but phone companies were powerful enough to keep getting away with it.

Here, you have a game that has automatic access to your phone account, and it might not be obvious to an adult that hitting a brightly coloured button on the screen will automaticly charge to thier account or saved CC information.

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

How exactly does this work?  Do you just click "Buy Smurfberry" and it charges your account?  At what point do you enter credit card information?

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

The sales are made through the iOS Payment APIs and the iPhone looks like it might save credit card inormation and so it would be relatively easy for someone to purchase by mistake.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

AFAIK, it's not the device itself that stores the credit card information: it's the Apple iTunes/App store. You need to have an iTunes account to download ANYTHING to an iDevice.

I have an iPod touch, not an iPhone, but there is a setting on the iPod touch that will completely prevent in-app purchases. It's not hard to find, either. You can also sign out of the store at any time (meaning you have to put the password in again to make any in-app purchases or download an app) or you can just disable downloading altogether.

(This is all based on my experience with the iPod Touch; I can't imagine that it's a whole lot different on other iDevices. It'd be pretty foolish to make the setups all that different, imo.)

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

That is what I would like to know.

As much of a concern as it is to get charges to one's credit card, are you forced to store your credit card? Can you remove it and to a 'charge as you go' as many/most websites allow?

It seems like it really should have been pretty easy to keep kids from racking up these charges by not having a credit card anywhere near the game.

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

Is the government actively trying to make children stupid?  By the time a kid is 13 (the age most on line anything reccomends before young users are left alone), he should understand what it means to buy something.   

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

Governments trying to shut down or limit access to online games. Governments trying to control in-game transactions. It's all only a matter of time, I suppose. Personally, I don't think that in-game transactions made directly in real-world cash should be made easily and/or seemlessly. In comparison, something like Nexon's NX, AeriaGames points, or Microsoft's MSP aren't really all that bad since (unless your credit card is attached to your account/console) you have to buy the points separately.

A case where easier isn't necessarily better.

 

 

Re: FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

So.. basically we have the old 1-900 argument going on again.   Well, I am sure the right person will get slushed and things will continue as they have been, just like cell phone charges.

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Who's responsible for crappy Netflix performance on Verizon?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Andrew EisenThe Steam controller may have changed again. http://www.vg247.com/2014/07/23/steam-controller-valve/07/23/2014 - 6:46pm
james_fudgePlease use the comments section for bitching about specific articles :) We do read them, after all.07/23/2014 - 10:52am
Andrew EisenThat's unfair but thank you for the tip on the Reddit thread containing the Kickstarter message to backers. The article has been updated.07/23/2014 - 10:50am
SleakerHere's the message Areal backers recieved from Kickstarter: http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/2beqlc/areal_kickstarter_suspended/07/23/2014 - 8:52am
Sleaker@MW - I still think Cogent/Level3 hookups were lacking prior to the comcast switch, but I do think verizon is being dumb here.07/23/2014 - 12:06am
Andrew EisenOf course it's a question. It's got a question mark and everything!07/22/2014 - 6:43pm
Matthew WilsonHate to say it, but that poll is not even a question. there is too much evidence that points to Verizon. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/186576-verizon-caught-throttling-netflix-traffic-even-after-its-pays-for-more-bandwidth07/22/2014 - 6:23pm
Andrew EisenHuh. The new Battlefield has been delayed to early next year. Are you feeling okay, EA? http://blogs.battlefield.com/2014/07/bfh-will-launch-2015/07/22/2014 - 6:11pm
SleakerWest End Games - Areal developers just got their Kickstarter suspended. Might want to dump that 'fully funded' status.07/22/2014 - 12:08pm
MaskedPixelanteHas anyone who bought it gotten their Sims 2 Ultimate Edition upgrade yet? Still waiting on mine, especially since they're supposed to be out by today.07/22/2014 - 10:45am
IanCDynasty Warriors 8 for the PS4 finally has the option to turn off the OTT depth of field that made the game look like a blurry mess. Only a few months behind the JP version patch...07/22/2014 - 10:17am
NeenekoI see nothing in Section 111 that would exclude IP transmission. It even explicitly includes 'other transmission methods'07/22/2014 - 9:28am
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/07/19/ruling_aereo_is_not_a_cable_company07/22/2014 - 8:13am
ZippyDSMleelul what?07/22/2014 - 7:53am
ZippyDSMleehttp://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/07/bungie-cross-generation-destiny-wouldnt-be-fair-to-low-res-players/07/22/2014 - 7:53am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/22/wii-u-update-adds-system-to-system-transfers/ The latest Wii U update allows you to do the system transfer between two Wii Us. Still not true accounts, but getting there.07/22/2014 - 7:39am
Papa MidnightSpeculation from PC Gamer. Don't hold your breath. http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/07/21/microsoft-job-listing-says-nice-things-about-pc-gaming-isnt-clear-if-it-means-them/07/21/2014 - 5:58pm
MaskedPixelanteI dunno, it's probably Vevo powertripping.07/21/2014 - 5:52pm
Andrew EisenMP - Makes you wonder what the intention behind the removal was. Stop the RickRolls? Yeah, like removing that one video is going to make a difference.07/21/2014 - 3:27pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician