The state of Bavaria put together a draft for a proposal to enhance the youth protection guidelines known as the JuSchRiL, along with updating the Interstate Treat for the Protection of Minors, also known as the JMStV. These measures would basically prevent developers from advertising pay-to-win measures to kids, or goad kids into spending money on microtransactions.
GamesIndustry.biz did an article briefly covering some of the finer points that were outlined in an extremely lengthy blog post on LinkedIn that was published by an associate at the Baker McKenzie law firm, Sebastian Schwiddessen, who explained that there’s a lot of layers to this draft proposal if it does go through, but he believes that it’s likely going to make it through, writing…
“The draft has not been enacted yet. However, the internal coordination and enactment process is in its final stage. Suggestions for a less invasive approach by different bodies and stakeholders have been rejected by the state media authorities. Currently, it seems likely that the new Draft JuSchRiL will be enacted.”
According to Schwiddessen, the VZBZ would likely benefit from this in being able to crack down on studios using aggressive microtransactions targeted at kids.
Schwiddessen does point out that the draft is extremely vague with its language for enforcing the rules, which could easily open it up for government exploitation.
However, he notes that there will be leniency in how the sanctions will be carried out. There will either be fines of up to €500,000 or a simple cease and desist letter sent to the offending party, with Schwiddessen writing…
“Violations of the JMStV can be sanctioned with fines of up to EUR 500,000. However, fines imposed in practice are typically significantly lower. Furthermore, violations can be made subject to cease-and-desist claims (typically brought forward by injunctions) by competitors and in particular German consumer protection associations […]”
Now unlike some consumer protection agencies out there that basically use their platform just to enforce the status quo or work to enforce corporate protectionism, the VZBV actually has a solid record in going to bat for consumers. In fact, before the ACCC sued Valve to implement refunds into their system, the VZBV sued Valve to offer some form of digital resale back in 2013, as reported by PC World.
As noted by Schwiddessen, so long as games targeting kids don’t include the “exploitation of the inexperience and credulity of children and adolescents”, they shouldn’t run afoul of the VZBV or the new draft to protect kids from predatory microtransactions.
It’s still early, and even though he believes that the draft will likely pass, there’s obviously a lot of wiggle room for pork and abuse. Hopefully that’s not what happens because it would be a shame if certain games were unfairly swept under the proposal and wrongly sanctioned by the the governing bodies in Germany. But we’ll see how it turns out if it does get ratified.
(Thanks for the news tip Tamikuz)