Briefing note on the UK Office of Fair Trading's Principles for online and app-based games


As of 1st April 2014 the newly established Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has assumed responsibility from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) as the UK’s regulator enforcing consumer protection laws in relation to online and app-based games. In view of the compliance date coinciding with this transition, the CMA expects that games developers and publishers targeting UK consumers will be compliant with the OFT’s recently published Principles for online and app-based games in relation to in-app purchases and the use of personal data of end users.

In the wake of adverse media coverage (including the memorable headline “D’oh! Eight-year-old boy runs up £1,000 bill on parents’ iPad buying virtual DOUGHNUTS on Simpsons game”), the OFT launched an investigation into the area in early 2013. Its conclusion was that end users of online and app-based games, particularly children, were being subjected to practices that were unfair, aggressive or misleading.

The Principles are intended to act as a guide to assist firms active in the UK games sector with selling in-app content responsibly, particularly where their games are marketed at or likely to be played by children. They also contain guidance regarding other commercial practices prevalent in the area and indicate potential ways to avoid breaching consumer protection laws.

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OFT Principles: