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UK ad regulator issues new guidance on in-game spending

Committee of Advertising Practice details preferred handling of virtual currency pricing and pressure tactics in ads

The UK's Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) issued new guidelines for in-game spending this week in an attempt to ensure advertisements are more transparent for consumers.

Guidelines were presented on a variety of topics such as virtual currency purchases, bundled items, odd pricing, and time-limited offers.

The committee insists that companies are clear with users about the costs of in-game goods, but also notes that these restrictions only apply to virtual currency that requires a purchase. If it can also be earned through gameplay, "it is no longer a direct substitution for real money and any inducement to or presentation of purchase with the virtual currency would not be considered to be advertising."

The organization explains that for the purchase of bundled items advertising claims such as "best value" or "cheapest" should only relate to the cost-per-unit price and not the cost of the bundle. When it comes to saving claims on bundles, the CAP advises that advertisers should be certain that any claims made for a specific bundle should be the same for players.

CAP notes that consumers should be aware about odd-pricing within games as well.

"Odd-pricing occurs when the increments of currency bundles do not match the increments of the virtual currency price for items, meaning that all players have to purchase more currency than they need to spend on the items," it said.

With regards to time-limited offers, the committee proposed that advertisers shouldn't imply that an item is available for a specific time or through a certain purchase method if it will be more readily available later on.

Additionally, the CAP sister organization Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK's independent advertising regulator, will be responsible for implementation of the newly suggested guidelines.

"In recognition that, for some advertisers, changes to in-game content may be required, the ASA will be willing to deal with complaints on an informal footing for a period of 6 months for in-game content and 3 months for all other ads covered by the guidance to allow industry to implement any changes effectively," the ASA said.

"Following this period, the ASA will return to their usual procedures for determining whether to pursue cases formally."

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