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TMCNet:  Costly extras: How game bills can mount up

[December 25, 2013]

Costly extras: How game bills can mount up

(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Parents of children who received tablets or smartphones this Christmas have been warned to watch out for hidden costs on games and downloads that have landed some families with bills of hundreds of pounds.

The regulator PhonepayPlus deals with complaints about firms which charge services to phone bills, including online quizzes and susbcription services. Parents have been contacting the body about charges involving children which averaged pounds 147.

Another potential problem area for parents is in-app purchases on downloaded games. These allow gamers to add to their experience by buying extra levels and accessories, but earlier this year the Office of Fair Trading accused developers of unfairly pressuring children into purchasing them. It analysed 38 games aimed at children and found some included "potentially unfair and aggressive commercial practices" and that "children's inexperience, vulnerability and credulity" were being exploited. Most of these are bought through accounts with app-stores such as iTunes or Google Play.

Some parents have reported receiving bills of thousands of pounds Games which are clearly aimed at young players, using characters such as My Little Pony and Smurfs have some extras which cost pounds 70 a time.

The OFT has been consulting on a range of principles for games makers to adhere to, which should be introduced early in 2014. Hilary Osborne (c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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