UK Consumer Protection & games

In July 2009 the UK’s department of Business Innovations and Skills (BIS) issued a White Paper titled: A Better Deal for Consumers – Delivering Real Help and and Change for the Future. While this paper was introduced by the previous UK administration the current coalition administration has not indicated any willingness to halt the modernisation of consumer protection .

In light of this tVPNs wishes to draw attention to Chapter 4 of the White Paper: Modernising Consumer Law, which deals with ‘new “digital” products’ and explicitly mentions computer games. the Virtual Policy Network suggests that the online games industry and other online industries consider their positions in respect products and services as a whole and elements such as digital download, episodic updates, digital artifacts and digitally currency in the light of the principles outlined in the paper.

Digital products

On p76 of the White Paper it states that: the government will be:

“Developing rules on new “digital” products to ensure the core principles of consumer protection apply”

And states further in section 4.2.4 Sale and supply of goods and services:

“Consumers have extensive rights when they buy goods and services, but their rights are spread across a number of statutes which overlap and interact. This law evolved before the development of digital technologies and is therefore not well suited for dealing with “digital” products such as music, films and digital content to be used in mobile phones (e.g. ring tones and games) in the form of data files legally downloaded from the internet.

The proposed Consumer Rights Directive covers part of this law: the sale of goods, including goods supplied as part of a mixed goods/services contract, but at present it does not fully cover, for example, sales of services or digital downloads. The Government would have preferred the Directive to include sales of services and “digital” products.”

As can be seen from the detail of paper it makes no firm statement about what particular consumer right will be and whether this will apply to, say, computer games as a whole and / or elements of a game. However it seems would seem prudent for the online games and related industries to consider positions in the light of the princples outline in the paper and how they may or may not apply to:

  • Online games
  • Downloaded games or content
  • Online game services such as match up’s
  • Game elements such as artifacts and currency either
    • earned through play; or
    • purchases (directly or through purchased tokens)

Considerations in respect of the above might include whether any of these are products or whether they constitute services.

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