The Federal Trade Commission is set to hold a public workshop on loot boxes in videogames, which could set the stage for the regulatory body’s philosophy toward them in the future. The workshop will be held at some point later this year, and likely will include representatives from consumer advocate groups, the game industry, and parental organizations.
The workshop comes at the urging of US Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who sent an open letter to the ESRB concerning loot boxes in games earlier this month, Ars Technica reports. The FTC says it is seeking participation from various stakeholder groups surrounding the loot box issue.
The FTC isn’t a legislative body, and so regardless of the outcome of the planned workshop, it won’t be creating new laws pertaining to loot boxes. However, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection can decide to take companies to federal court if it believes these companies are engaged in deceptive business practices.
Short of that, however, the FTC could also decide to create a consumer alert about loot boxes in games. These alerts aren’t enforceable, but rather are simply national level warnings to consumers about potentially dangerous trends – things like email phishing scams and fraudulent robocall campaigns have been flagged for alerts in the past.
The workshop will be the first public step the FTC has taken since it announced that it was officially investigating videogame loot boxes late last year.
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State legislators in Hawaii and Washington have introduced bills that would place restrictions on loot boxes, although these would naturally be limited to their respective states should they be passed into law. The FTC’s investigation is the first time a federal agency has taken up the issue, and the results could very well set the tone for the federal US response to loot boxes in the future.