Authors

Christopher Jeffery

Partner

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Graham Hann

Partner

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Vinod Bange

Partner

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Siân Skelton

Partner

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Paul Glass

Partner

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Debbie Heywood

Senior professional support lawyer

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Glyn Morgan

Partner

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Angus Finnegan

Consulting partner

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Martin Cotterill

Partner

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Authors

Christopher Jeffery

Partner

Read More

Graham Hann

Partner

Read More

Vinod Bange

Partner

Read More

Siân Skelton

Partner

Read More

Paul Glass

Partner

Read More

Debbie Heywood

Senior professional support lawyer

Read More

Glyn Morgan

Partner

Read More

Angus Finnegan

Consulting partner

Read More

Martin Cotterill

Partner

Read More

9 December 2019

Radar - December 2019 – 5 of 8 Insights

Radar December 2019: Games and eGaming

There was considerable focus on the impact of games and, in particular, eGaming, on children and vulnerable people this year with a number of reports and scrutiny of adverts targeted at children.

New rules on age verification procedures for online gambling operators

In February, the Gambling Commission issued new rules for remote gambling operators which have applied from 7 May 2019. Holders of remote online gambling licences need to:

  • complete age verification before a customer can deposit or gamble online and before they can access any free-to-play versions of a game. This replaced the previous 72 hour timeframe
  • obtain customer details and verify their basic identity before allowing them to gamble, and
  • inform customers of the types of identification they are going to need to supply before they can deposit funds.

Additional CAP guidance on gambling ads and children

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP and BCAP) published enhanced guidance for gambling operators on the placement of adverts and use of social media tools and data when targeting gambling adverts.

The revised guidance:

  • Builds on existing guidance on targeted advertising across all media.
  • Requires that gambling adverts are not placed in media for children or young people, or in media where children or young people make up more than 25% of the audience.
  • Requires marketers to take all reasonable steps to use available data to include or exclude individuals on the basis of their age or other relevant criteria.
  • Prohibits targeting of under 18s or individuals who, due to their online behaviour are likely to be under 18, with gambling adverts.
  • Requires operators to show they have made full use of available tools to help them comply.
  • Confirms that gambling adverts must not be likely to have particular appeal to children, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. Cartoons, fairy tales, celebrities and sports personalities likely to appeal to children or who are or appear to be under 25 should not be used.

ASA rulings on age-restricted and other gambling ads

The ASA made a number of rulings this year on age-restricted and gambling ads.

Tombola was found to have breached the CAP Code by placing ads on the 'I'm a Celebrity' app. This ruling potentially went beyond the scope of CAP guidance as it suggests that an age-restricted advert should not be placed unless it can be directed away from an under-18 audience. CAP guidance requires the lower standard that marketers should be able to demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to exclude a relevant audience. Five gambling firms were also found to have breached rules on targeting ads at children.

The ASA also upheld a complaint against Casumo when it targeted gambling ads at people carrying out a google search using the words 'how to unsubscribe from gambling'.

CMA investigation into auto-renewals by online gaming companies

The CMA opened an investigation into the supply of egaming memberships by Nintendo Switch, Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox in April. The investigation is looking at:

  • Fairness of the auto-renewals process, in particular whether prior notice is given before money is taken and whether auto-renewal is by default.
  • Cancellation and refund policies – how easy is it for customers to cancel and get a refund and are there factors which make it difficult for customers to get their money back?
  • Fairness of contract terms – do the terms and conditions provide wide scope for the companies to change the quality of the deal offered to consumers, such as reducing the number of included games or changing the price of the subscription?

Commission statement of objections to games publishers re geo-blocking

The EC sent Valve and five PC video games publishers (Bandai Namco, Capcom Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax) a statement of objections setting out its preliminary view that they had used geo-blocking in breach of Article 101 TEU. The disputed practices related to activation keys provided by Valve via Steam to the publishers for the games Valve distributed. These were geo-blocked to prevent cross-border sales. In addition, the Commission is concerned that the publishers included contractual export restrictions in their agreements with a number of other distributors.

Valve published a response saying that the region locks applied to approximately 3% of all games using Steam (and none of its own games) and rejected the EC's extensions of liability to the platform provider, saying that the keys were provided free of charge and without any revenue share for Valve. Nonetheless, it said it had turned off region locks in 2015 after the commission raised concerns, except where the locks were required by local law or geographic limits on licensing.

Gambling Commission framework measuring gambling-related harms for children and young people

Following on from the launch of a national strategy on reducing gambling harms, and new age verification rules, the Gambling Commission published a framework for measuring gambling-related harm experienced by children and young people. The framework considers not only the impact on childhood and adolescence but also on future potential. The Commission will carry out annual surveys to measure gambling harm to children and young people.

Gambling Commission does not oversee purchase of in-game content and loot boxes

The Gambling Commission told a DCMS select committee that it does not oversee the purchase of in-game content like FIFA player packs or loot boxes because there is no official way to monetise what's inside them. This does not, however, take into account the unauthorised secondary markets through which in-game content and loot boxes are used as virtual currency in a process known as skin betting. The spokesperson for the Commission said that the most complaints about skin betting had been received about the game 'Counterstrike: Global Offensive', published by Valve, and called on Valve to do more to prevent skin betting sites featuring its content.

Gambling Commission consultation on gambling with credit cards

The Gambling Commission launched a consultation on gambling with credit cards. Among the things the Commission is consulting on are:

  • Banning or restricting the use of credit cards for all forms of remote gambling.
  • Consumers' motivations for using credit cards to gamble, and any specific benefits of using them.
  • The use of other forms of borrowing, such as overdrafts and loans, to fund gambling in lieu of credit cards, which might be an unintended consequence if any action on credit cards is taken in isolation.
  • The use of e-wallets for online gambling.
  • Whether additional controls should extend to the use of credit cards for non-remote betting.

The Commission anticipates that a prohibition or restriction on gambling with credit cards would be achieved by changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice that would take effect in April 2020. The consultation closed on 6 November 2019.

DCMS Committee report on immersive and addictive gaming technologies

The DCMS Committee published a report on issues arising from immersive and addictive gaming technologies in September. Paid-for loot boxes come under particular scrutiny with the Committee effectively asking the government to designate them as a game of chance or justify why it chooses not to. The report also recommends the establishment of a working group to examine the effect of gambling elements in games and recommends that the government advise PEGI to classify paid-for loot boxes as age-restricted gambling content.

Purchasers of games through Valve Steam can resell them, according to French court

The High Court of Paris ruled in favour of consumer organisation UFC-Que Choisir, holding that Steam users must be able to resell games purchased on the platform. The court also said that Valve will need to return any currency left in a user's Steam Wallet on request when they stop subscribing. In addition, Valve has to take on liability for harm for games supplied on Steam even if they are in beta, and will have reduced rights to user modifications and community content. Valve is also required to clarify rules around when a user can be excluded from Steam.

Valve was given one month to change its rules or face a fine of EUR 3000 per day for up to six months. It is appealing the decision.

Return to contents page

In this series

Technology, media & communications

Radar - December 2019

by Multiple authors

Technology, media & communications

Radar - December 2019: Tech

by Multiple authors

Data protection & cyber

Radar - December 2019: Data privacy

IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS

by Debbie Heywood

Consumer & retail

Radar - December 2019: Consumer

by Multiple authors

Gaming, eGaming & gambling

Radar December 2019: Games and eGaming

by Multiple authors

Telecommunications

Radar - December 2019: Communications

by Multiple authors

Technology, media & communications

Radar - December 2019: Digital Single Market

by Multiple authors

Technology, media & communications

Radar - December 2019: Other developments

by Multiple authors

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