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Advertising in-game purchases - CAP and BCAP guidance

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In November 2020, we published an article on draft guidance (the Draft Guidance) proposed by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) on advertising in-game purchases in apps and video games. Respondents were invited to comment on the draft guidance over a period of 12 weeks.

On 20 September 2021, CAP and BCAP published their final guidance (the Guidance) following a review of the responses received during the consultation. The Guidance clarifies how the CAP and BCAP Codes should apply to in-game 'storefronts' through which digital items can be bought and to in-game advertising in general. The Guidance also aims to better protect consumers amidst increasing concerns that in-game purchasing could mislead consumers.  

While the final Guidance generally reflects the Draft Guidance published the previous year, there are several notable changes:

  1. Offers to purchase items are not within CAP's remit if items can be purchased with virtual currency that is earned in the game, regardless of whether the currency can also be purchased. If, however, the transaction requires the consumer to use real money or a virtual currency that was purchased with real money, then these offers and inducements would fall within CAP's remit.
  2. Advertisers are not required to include real-world price statements for items purchased with virtual currencies. However, it must be easy for consumers to understand how much they are spending on in-game purchases. For example, in most cases the advertiser should be able to state the virtual currency price while also providing a clear link to the storefront that shows how much currency the player currently has and where more currency can be purchased. 
  3. Certain parts of the Guidance also apply to advertisements for games that feature in-game purchasing. This means that it must be made clear before a consumer purchases or downloads a game whether it contains in-game purchases and, if it does, what exactly the consumer will be receiving in exchange.

The ASA has issued a statement acknowledging that some advertisers will require time to change their ad content to be in line with this newly issued Guidance. With this in mind, it is willing to take on complaints about in-game advertising content on an informal basis for six months and for all other advertisements covered by the Guidance for three months. After these transition periods, the ASA will continue with its usual procedures for assessing which cases to pursue formally.

The Guidance is subject to a review after 12 months.

If you require any further information in relation to this area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Advertising & Consumer protection practice.

With special thanks to trainee Kristina Holm for her contribution to this blog.

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