The European Parliament today voted to adopt a report calling on the European Commission to address several issues in the games industry which it believes will better protect consumers, particularly young people.
The report was chaired by MEP Adriana Maldonado López and received 577 votes in favour, 56 against and 15 abstentions.
López made more than a dozen recommendations in her report, including a call for harmonized rules across the European Union’s internal market when providing clear information about gaming content, as well as systems to help parents understand and control how much time and money their children spend on games.
The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system was highlighted as an example of something that could provide consumers with more transparent information about the content, the age range of the target audience and the in-game purchasing options.
PEGI ratings are used in 38 countries and are currently required by law in some markets but not in others.
“We need to harmonize EU rules to ensure increased consumer protection with a focus on minors”
Adriana Maldonado López, MEP
MEPs also voted for the Commission to analyze the impact of loot boxes and in-game prompts to buy, and take action where appropriate, and investigate whether gold farming can be linked to financial crime and human rights abuses.
They also urge developers to “avoid designing games that encourage addiction,” with López citing the WHO’s recognition of gaming disorder as an example of the state of addiction in some gamers.
Other recommended actions include prioritizing privacy, improving gender imbalance in the industry workforce, and making it easier for consumers to unsubscribe and sign up.
The European Parliament also recognized the value of the video games sector and its potential to help with education, mental health and other aspects of life.
MEPs have asked the European Commission to develop a European video game strategy that would give the industry a boost and “help unleash its full potential”.
They also proposed the creation of a new annual European prize for online video games.
“Our report highlights the positive sides of this pioneering industry, but also social risks that we need to consider, such as the impact of gaming on mental health,” López said as she presented her report to the plenary today.
“Younger players in particular can be affected. We need to harmonize EU rules, ensure increased consumer protection and put a special focus on minors.”
“Our industry is committed to a fair and transparent consumer experience when playing video games”
ISFE & EGDF
Prior to the vote, the Interactive Software Federation of Europe and the European Game Developers Federation issued a joint statement GamesIndustry.bizand said the two trade associations were “concerned by calls for stricter regulation of all in-game purchases”.
The couple said such regulation will affect all game companies’ ability to fund development.
“European consumer protection laws are comprehensive and flexible to cover and sanction practices deemed misleading, unfair or aggressive,” the statement said. “As several studies have recognized, the problem lies in insufficient enforcement, which undermines the effectiveness of the regulatory framework.”
It continues: “Our industry is committed to providing a fair and transparent consumer experience when playing video games. European players have more amazing games to choose from than ever thanks to the increasing variety of business models that the industry has developed. Regulatory authorities should protect the right of access to these cultural products while maintaining the high level of European consumer protection.”
For more information on the recommendations, see the report below.
Today’s vote follows another in November, when the European Parliament voted to boost investment in the video game industry across the EU. We spoke to MEP Laurence Farreng about the ongoing fight for the recognition of the value of video games.
Consumer protection in online video games: a European single market approach
The European Commission was asked:
Age Ratings and Information
- Assess how the PEGI system will be implemented in the different types of games available and consider enshrining it in EU law to make the PEGI Code of Conduct the mandatory age rating system for all games in the Single Market
- Supporting the promotion of public and private educational and informational campaigns for parents and carers to educate them about the existing tools such as the PEGI app and encourage their use
- Introduced common labels for information such as the recommended minimum age, a game’s theme, in-game purchase options, the presence of pop-up ads, and more
- Development of a common European identity verification system to verify the age of players
- Development of minimum standards to protect privacy
- To collect EU-wide data on average playing time, average in-game spending and socio-psychological impact, submit an annual report to Parliament
- Assess the possibility of requiring providers of online games aimed at minors to develop child impact assessments
- If necessary, take regulatory action on games that allow players to create their own content to protect users, especially minors, from illegal practices
- Assessing whether the current consumer law framework is sufficient to address all issues raised by loot boxes and in-game purchases. If not, adapt the current framework for online gaming or propose stand-alone legislation
- Analyzing the way loot boxes are sold and taking the necessary steps to achieve a common European approach to loot boxes to protect consumers, especially minors
- Assess the use of gold farming in relation to financial crime and human rights abuses and present appropriate initiatives where appropriate
- To put an end to illegal practices that allow anyone to trade, sell or bet on in-game and third-party (for skin betting) websites
- To ensure that merchants provide users with an opt-in suggestion when purchasing subscriptions, as well as clear and easily accessible information on how to cancel automatic renewals at any time
- Updating the EU Kids Online research project, which collects EU-wide data on children’s online experiences, and funding this and similar initiatives in the future
- To present a European video game strategy that unlocks the economic, social, educational, cultural and innovative potential of this sector to enable it to become a leader in the global video game market
- Presenting initiatives to improve the accessibility of online video games for people with disabilities