Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 13th Apr 2013 16:49 UTC
Legal "The OFT has launched an investigation into whether children are being unfairly pressured or encouraged to pay for additional content in 'free' web and app-based games, including upgraded membership or virtual currency such as coins, gems or fruit. Typically, players can access only portions of these games for free, with new levels or features, such as faster game play, costing money." Instances of this may be illegal, especially when it targets children. As for me - I just find it incredibly annoying.
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Um.
by Brendan on Sat 13th Apr 2013 18:17 UTC
Brendan
Member since:
2005-11-16

"February, this year, saw 5-year old Danny Kitchen spending £1700 on in-app purchases while playing the otherwise free Zombies vs. Ninjas game. Similar was the case with Cameron Crossan unwittingly spent over £3700 on in-app purchases."

Where the flick does a 5-year old get £1700???

Even though "free to play" is a misleading scam; I can't help feeling that parents/guardians are the problem here.

- Brendan

Reply Score: 5

RE: Um.
by andrewclunn on Sat 13th Apr 2013 18:55 UTC in reply to "Um."
andrewclunn Member since:
2012-11-05

Always require a password for every purchase. People have "1 Click Shopping" on devices that they then hand to their toddlers. It's replacing commercials that have your kids saying, "Mom! Dad! I want that!" with them just purchasing it with their parents' credit card without the parents knowing.

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: Um.
by gagol on Sat 13th Apr 2013 19:08 UTC in reply to "RE: Um."
gagol Member since:
2012-05-16

Advertising to children is illegal in Canada. Should we ban those apps across the big pond?

Reply Score: 4

RE: Um.
by Neolander on Sun 14th Apr 2013 06:14 UTC in reply to "Um."
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Where the flick does a 5-year old get £1700???

Even though "free to play" is a misleading scam; I can't help feeling that parents/guardians are the problem here.

Don't know if things are different in the UK, but in France you cannot own the kind of bank account which works with a credit card below 18. That limitation is probably related to minors' lack of legal responsability: if you cannot be held responsible of, say, keeping your banking information secret, what should the bank do when you stupidly leak it out and then come yelling at them?

This might explain the situation a bit, although if the parents had thought it up a little, they would probably have opened and appropriately tweaked a bank account for the kid under their own names. With the tweaking revolving around not letting the kid spend too much, and especially no more than he has.

Edited 2013-04-14 06:28 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Um.
by kompak on Sun 14th Apr 2013 20:25 UTC in reply to "RE: Um."
kompak Member since:
2011-06-14

Why would one need a credit card for that? At least in Finland you can buy as much crap as you want with text messages adding directly to your phone bill. Not everyone remembers to add a limit to their kids phone subscription. At least not before the first bill of a couple thousands euros.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Um.
by Neolander on Mon 15th Apr 2013 05:44 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Um."
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

There is a mechanism for carrier billing in France too, but none of the "modern" mobile OSs support it in their store.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Um.
by steogede2 on Sun 14th Apr 2013 18:44 UTC in reply to "Um."
steogede2 Member since:
2007-08-17

... I can't help feeling that parents/guardians are the problem here.

- Brendan


I don't know if you have used an iPhone, but *by default* it will remember the password that is entered into the App Store for quite a while. Also *by default* In App Purchases are allowed and do not require a password to be entered. Now obviously, the first thing that any reasonably tech savy parent (i.e. 15% of the population) will do is turn off all this crap.

Whenever I look at the top grossing apps, it is generally the "free" apps which are aimed at children under the age of ten that are the top grossing apps. Generally they will have outrageously overpriced IAPs that no adult in their right mind would purchase or actively allow to be purchased.

Then there are the paid for games (i.e. Disney's "Where's my Water") that will bring up an advert for another game as soon as you load the game. Often they will have heavily misleading click bait - such as 'click here to play' when what they mean is 'click here to buy this other game and then play that'. If you sit down ten children with a freshly installed copy of certain games (whilst the App Store credentials are still cached) I bet you will find that only one gets to the game and the other nine make numerous further purchases.

Reply Score: 8

RE: Um.
by dvhh on Mon 15th Apr 2013 02:57 UTC in reply to "Um."
dvhh Member since:
2006-03-20

I agree on the Parents/Guardians problem,
Like most of our generation before parents are delegating chidren interactions with TV/Video Games/iPad/Tablets (mind you I like playing video games).

On the other hand the iTunes Store issue with requiring a password (that it would remember for a period of time ) with free apps is a big issue, that Apple cannot solve without a big usability change (a "remember my password for 5 mins" checkbox).

Reply Score: 3

RE: Um.
by Soulbender on Mon 15th Apr 2013 03:27 UTC in reply to "Um."
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

Even though "free to play" is a misleading scam; I can't help feeling that parents/guardians are the problem here.


Perhaps in an individual case but on the whole the problem is individuals and companies engaging in fraudulent behaviour.

Reply Score: 6

RE: Um.
by Tractor on Mon 15th Apr 2013 12:03 UTC in reply to "Um."
Tractor Member since:
2006-08-18

Then you probably are not a parent.

The problem is that it is too easy to "one click buy" from these applications. A 5-year old kid doesn't know what electronic money is, he can merely achieve his way through a menu as if it was another part of the game.

Conversely, parents are not always geeks & techies. There are myriads of people out there, which qualify as "normal" parents, and which will never try to look at some obscure menu with lot of inscrutable options. They merely assume that the "default settings" is right, and protect them in a "common sense" way.

Condemning them is like condemning someone from having walked into a minefield conveniently warned with a semi-hidden small paper in Chinese font.

My take : it's up to the money-grabber store (i.e. Apple/Google) to ensure that no purchase can be done too easily that a child can convulsively use it. It's a system flaw. Insanely taken advantage of by borderline business practice. Well, borderline... I'm getting kind these days.

Reply Score: 4

simpsons - Tapped out
by jgfenix on Sat 13th Apr 2013 20:20 UTC
jgfenix
Member since:
2006-05-25

In this game you can buy donugths to speed up the game or change them for premium items. The first option you are shown cots 89.99 €.

Reply Score: 3

RE: simpsons - Tapped out
by Neolander on Sun 14th Apr 2013 06:22 UTC in reply to "simpsons - Tapped out"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

In this game you can buy donugths to speed up the game or change them for premium items. The first option you are shown cots 89.99 €.

Are those some kind of gold-plated doughnuts with encrusted jewels?

Reply Score: 2

About time
by Anonymous Penguin on Sat 13th Apr 2013 20:21 UTC
Anonymous Penguin
Member since:
2005-07-06

It is about time that somebody looked into this, which is nothing short of fraud.
I got a stupid racing game, and in order to begin to use it I spent about 20 Euro (call me an idiot if you want, I won't take offence)
Plus they sent literally thousands of messages every day.
The old method, you pay once but you get all the features immediately, is extremely fair by comparison.

Reply Score: 8

That's what we get
by leos on Sun 14th Apr 2013 03:30 UTC
leos
Member since:
2005-09-21

The app movement drove prices down towards $0.99. Obviously unless you're in the top spots, you can't make any money at 70cents/sale.
Why are we surprised that game studios are turning to alternative revenue sources to fund their games? If you don't like the model, don't buy the game. Simple as that.

Reply Score: 6

RE: That's what we get
by Anonymous Penguin on Sun 14th Apr 2013 17:06 UTC in reply to "That's what we get"
Anonymous Penguin Member since:
2005-07-06

I see it differently. Far too many people hope to make easy money with appalling quality apps for smartphones or tablets. Better applications don't cost $0.99.
For instance Hiarcs for iPad/iPhone costs $9.99.
But that is a different matter. Here we are talking about applications tagged as free, but which aren't free at all. Thus a scam.

Reply Score: 4

RE: That's what we get
by Kivada on Mon 15th Apr 2013 06:38 UTC in reply to "That's what we get"
Kivada Member since:
2010-07-07

They are doing the same thing that started with gaming with the PS3 and Xbox360 DLC, it has permeated all gaming platforms that have an internet connection.

Thus you'll still pay $20-70 for the game base install, then have to be bled dry for DLC or other in game crap.

Reply Score: 3

RE: That's what we get
by Laurence on Mon 15th Apr 2013 12:23 UTC in reply to "That's what we get"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

The app movement drove prices down towards $0.99. Obviously unless you're in the top spots, you can't make any money at 70cents/sale.
Why are we surprised that game studios are turning to alternative revenue sources to fund their games? If you don't like the model, don't buy the game. Simple as that.

We don't, it's kids who don't know any better that buy that crap; which is the whole bloody point of this investigation.

Reply Score: 5

Comment by Gone fishing
by Gone fishing on Sun 14th Apr 2013 09:17 UTC
Gone fishing
Member since:
2006-02-22

Looks like proprietary software to me. Getting Windows software over the internet is like try to buy a cup of tea in a whore house, whilst using the Apple app store like visiting a very dodgy bizarre in a police state.

Makes me glad me the Kids use opensource I can let them use the software centre on their PCs without fearing something bad is going to happen. Who cares if you cant get a game with the worlds most expensive doughnuts, maybe if they get bored with the games they'll learn how to use the computer.

Reply Score: 0

Probably a good thing
by lucas_maximus on Sun 14th Apr 2013 13:39 UTC
lucas_maximus
Member since:
2009-08-18

After doing a bit of consumer law as part of my engineering course, we have pretty sensible rules for the most part about advertising and purchases.

Hopefully this would get rid of a lot of shitty Micro Purchase games. I don't mind DLC content (Great when it gets bundled on the PS3 or Steam).

Reply Score: 4

Comment by ilovebeer
by ilovebeer on Mon 15th Apr 2013 00:08 UTC
ilovebeer
Member since:
2011-08-08

Another issue I think should be addressed is intentional "traps" where users spend those coins/gems/jewels/whatevers on accident but have no undo option, no confirmation before spending, and no help via customer service. The same goes for sudden pop-ups with big "buy" buttons and a little tiny close button.

I know several people who allow their kids to make these purchases using allowance, or as a reward for good work, etc., and this problem is a recurring theme. One company I've heard mentioned several times is "Team Lava". Apparently their policy is if you make an accidental purchase then `f-you that's you're problem`.

Any time real money changes hands, the customer should have some kind of protection from these `traps`. Especially when these games are obviously geared towards children.

Reply Score: 4

Parents Vs Developers
by siraf72 on Tue 16th Apr 2013 09:51 UTC
siraf72
Member since:
2006-02-22

I have kids and both have their own Itunes store accounts. They can only top them up with Pre-paid cards, which they have to buy - from me. I would have thought this approach is obvious, but in reality it isn't.

For starters, it doesn't apply to people with only one device. like a shared family iPad. Parents can be blissfully unaware of the crap-ware "free games" that require in-game purchases of some virtual coinage in order to progress faster.

My daughter learned that hard way about those games when she used up her itunes top-up card and now avoids them. However, had that account been linked to my credit card she might well have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars.

I would like to think the iTunes email notifications would provide a heads up, but when your kid installs tons of those "free" games I guess it's easy to stop paying attention.

Regardless of parenting responsibilities in this case, targeting kids to get money in this way is pretty damn low.

Reply Score: 3

v yurmgaqhdts@gmail.com
by Anonymous on Wed 17th Apr 2013 06:58 UTC