Radar - December 2019 – 5 / 8 观点
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.
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:
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:
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'.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The Gambling Commission launched a consultation on gambling with credit cards. Among the things the Commission is consulting on are:
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.
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.
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.