FTC will host a loot box workshop in August, and regulators want your input

The FTC is finally taking its look at loot boxes

April 8, 2019 The FTC will host a workshop on loot boxes on August 7.

Back in November, commissioners of the US Federal Trade Commission agreed to investigate loot boxes and their effects on children. Now, the FTC has set a date for its loot box workshop, which will bring together industry reps and consumer advocates to talk about the transactions, and the organisation is looking for public input leading into the workshop.

‘Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes,’ as the FTC has named the workshop, will take place on August 7. It will host representatives from the industry and trade associations, as well as academics, government officials, and consumer advocates to “discuss concerns regarding the marketing and use of loot boxes and other in-game purchases, and the potential behavioral impact of these virtual rewards on young consumers.”

The three main topics noted in the announcement are the history and current state of in-game transactions, research on child and consumer behaviour around digital transactions, and consumer awareness and education on in-game purchases.

The FTC is seeking public input on those topics and potential participants at the email address [email protected], where you can send your submissions until June 7. The organisation is also looking for comments on its public site for the workshop, which will be open through October 11.

This comes after US senator Maggie Hassan asked the Federal Trade Commission to commit to an investigation and education project. “Given the seriousness of this issue,” Hassan said, “I think it is in fact time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected, and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games.” You can hear Hassan’s comments in full via C-SPAN‘s recording of the hearings.

Hassan describes loot boxes as “endemic” to the videogame industry, citing unspecified research estimates in saying that they’ll be bringing in $50 billion by 2022. She cites another report from the UK Gambling Commission “finding that 30% of children have used loot boxes in video games. The report further found that this exposure may correlate with a rise of young problem gamblers in the United Kingdom.”

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While that report did note that 31% of teenagers had opened loot boxes – and the link between loot boxes and child gambling remains a point of international concern – the UK Gambling Commission was quick to clarify that it had not investigated any link between loot boxes and problem gambling among children.