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South Korea’s FTC Reviewing In-Game Purchase Clauses

Liz Lanier

The Fair Trade Commission in South Korea will conduct a review of game companies’ consumer practices and thus contacted 10 companies, including Nexon, Blizzard, and Riot Games, on Friday, according to The Korea Herald.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is concerned with in-game purchases in PC and mobile games. In particular, one concern is the clauses game companies enact regarding minors’ in-game purchases.

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“Some news reports suggest that it may become easier for people to get refunds for in-game purchases if they can prove that their children used credit cards without permission,” an FTC representative told the Korea Herald. “But if an underage user actively deceives parents, that’s on the kids. If a minor spends more than the legally allowed amount of 70,000 won ($62) a month, he or she will be held accountable.”

Some games also only “hint that parental approval is needed when teenagers sign up for a game — de facto parental permission,” according to The Korea Herald.

The FTC conducts investigations based on internal decision or when enough consumers report issues that it determines a closer look is necessary. There are further concerns with how in-game purchases are regulated, including gifting items. Some gifted items have an unreasonably small period of redemption, or a consumer can’t get a refund on a gifted purchase even though the receiving person hasn’t accepted the gift, for example.

The FTC representative stated that the commission sees these policies as unfair, and that after review the game companies can make changes to these policies voluntarily or they could be forced to make changes.

Similar concerns were raised in the US regarding children’s purchases of in-game items. Earlier this year, Facebook was under fire for creating a system in which children spent tens of millions of dollars of parents’ money on its games.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission will hold a public workshop in August to look into loot boxes, after growing concerns about how they are marketed to consumers. Particularly, there are concerns that purchasing video game loot boxes, which contain an assortment of random in-game items that aren’t revealed until after purchase, mimics gambling and is enticing for young players.

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