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New transparency standards for loot boxes in video games agreed with Italian authorities

The Italian antitrust authority set new transparency standards for video games that contain loot boxes and in-game payments by players.

The Italian antitrust authority (AGCM), which has jurisdiction in Italy also on unfair commercial practices, has accepted the commitments presented by some video game publishers regarding the information that must be provided to consumers in the case of in-game purchases and loot boxes.

The investigation aimed at verifying whether publishers had disseminated misleading information and/or omissions regarding the characteristics and costs to be incurred in video games that implement in-game purchases and loot boxes, even when children and adolescents can use these games.

According to AGCM, in-game purchases can be made within a video game; for example, through loot boxes, using real money.  Through them, players obtain various utilities (such as weapons, equipment, players, special moves, various upgrades linked to the nature of the game, virtual coins, etc.), which allow them to upgrade their character or team and advance rapidly in the game.  In other cases, purchases make aesthetic or choreographic improvements to the character without affecting game performance.

The Italian antitrust authority closed the proceedings, accepting the publishers’ transparency commitments to render the purchase mechanisms and loot boxes in video games more transparent and to eliminate the possible unfairness of the commercial practices under investigation. The proceedings were thus closed without any infringement being ascertained.

In particular, the video game publishers committed to include

  • the PEGI pictogram with dimensions that make it more visible; and
  • an explanatory caption warning the user, in the game description pages and, therefore, before purchase, that payments with real money are possible within the game;

to contribute to reinforcing the responsible purchasing choice of consumers, amplifying the usefulness of the PEGI system for the adoption of informed decisions by parents.

In fact, the proposed measures offer – according to AGCM – concrete elements to provide consumers with an awareness of the characteristics of the purchase they are about to make or of the videogame they are about to download.

The information enhancements have been accompanied by tools that allow parents to supervise the use of video games by children and adolescents and prevent unwanted purchases.  Through parental control features, parents can control and set many of the parameters of their children’s play through a series of features including access to certain games, playtime, the ability to interact with other users, and, finally, whether or not they can make purchases and with what monthly spending limit.

This case is quite interesting since it might become a benchmark for similar cases that are flourishing throughout the world due to the high level of attention on loot boxes.

On a similar topic, you may find interesting the article “How loot boxes deal with regulations and limitations, and how the gaming industry is reacting?“.

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Vincenzo Giuffré

Lawyer at DLA Piper IPT Italy, Milan| Gambling and Gaming Sector| eSports, Media, Sports and Entertainment | Bocconi University | University of Minnesota - W. Mondale Law School | Visiting Student at National University of Singapore (NUS)

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