DCMS orders mandatory parental locks on loot boxes

DCMS has informed video game stakeholders that the purchase of loot boxes should be unavailable to children and minors without parental consent.

The measure of ‘parental locks on loot boxes’ will be applied as an industry across video game platforms, as DCMS seeks “to step up and improve protections for children as well as players of all ages from the risk of harm”. 

New rules and standards on video game rewards and incentives will be applied following feedback from a 2020 consultation that “unveiled a link between loot boxes and gambling harms, as well as wider mental health, financial and problem-gaming harms”.

Announcing new measures, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “We want to stop children going on spending sprees online without parental consent, spurred on by in-game purchases like loot-boxes.

“Games companies and platforms need to do more to ensure that controls and age-restrictions are applied so that players are protected from the risk of gambling harms. Children should be free to enjoy gaming safely, whilst giving parents and guardians the peace of mind they need.”

DCMS acknowledged that video game platforms such as Xbox had taken steps to improve protections, such as requiring the need for parental permission for under-18s to spend money within games.

New measures will ensure that all video game platforms provide spending controls on in-game purchases, with publishers required to provide transparent information on their player rewards and incentives.

The measures applied will be focused on protecting “the minority of players who spend a disproportionate amount of money on loot boxes, and who may be at a greater risk of harm.”

Meanwhile, DCMS’ regulatory oversight of the sector will be backed by a ‘new working group’ made up of “publishers, platforms and regulatory bodies to develop industry-led measures to protect players and reduce the risk of harm”.

Supporting its policy development and industry stakeholders, DCMS will launch a Video Games Research Framework to secure deeper insights in understanding video game harms.

Dr Jo Twist OBE, Ukie Chief Executive Officer, said: “As a responsible industry, we have committed to exploring additional ways to support players and parents to build on our existing work developing and raising awareness of parental controls.

“We look forward to engaging closely with the Government and other organisations in the working group and on the Video Games Research Framework.”

Raising standards and applying new protections, DCMS stated that the government wants to build the foundations for the UK to become the global leader in regulating the multi-billion-pound video games sector, by providing the safest environment for children to play games.

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