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OFT launches investigation into supplementary web game charges

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to launch an investigation into the supplementary charges applied to many web and mobile games, most aimed at children, in the wake of a series of high profile cases where errant gamers have racked up bills of thousands of pounds.

The investigation will seek to establish whether publishers are placing undue pressure on children to pay for optional extras such as virtual items to customise gameplay.

As such the trading standards watchdog will be quizzing parents for their take on the practice, such as the parents of five-year old Danny Kitchen who racked up a £1,700 bill while playing Zombies Vs Ninjas.

Cavendish Elithorn, the OFT's senior director for goods and consumer, said the move was designed to establish whether games are ‘misleading, commercially aggressive or otherwise uunfair’, adding: “We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs."

The OFT has stressed that it did not wish to ban such practices but merely rein in the most egregious excesses of publishers pressuring children.

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