Earlier today we reported on the loot box ban bill to be introduced by the United States Senator Josh Hawley. In an announcement that almost seems coordinated, Germany is also drafting new legislation to tackle aggressive mobile monetization for children with youth protection guidelines. According to the GamesIndustry.biz report, the new guidelines (referred to as draft JuSchRiL) were put forward by the State of Bavaria in southeastern Germany. The guidelines aim to update the Interstate Treaty for the Protection of Minors (JMStV). Deliberately broad, the guidelines specifically target in-app ads and in-app purchases aimed at children, particularly for those types of in-app purchases that we know as "pay-to-win."
It's the first extensive revision of the "JuSchRiL" legislation since it was first introduced in 2005. Sebastian Schwiddessen, an associate at multinational law firm Baker McKenzie, headquartered in Chicago, said in a LinkedIn post that the draft "clearly serves as a reaction to the ongoing loot box and monetization debate."
The guidelines also aim to target invasive monetization models by not allowing direct purchasing appeals toward minors, as it would constitute exploitation of children's "inexperience and credulity." As per the draft's wording, even games that are mainly played by adults could fall under this legislation if the audience also includes children, such as E-rated games. An English translation of an excerpt from the draft confirms it: "An explicit appeal and a specific direction towards children and adolescents is not required." Schwiddessen claims that "the question whether an advertisement is at least also directed at children or adolescents must be assessed on a case-by-case basis."
Although the draft hasn't been enacted yet, proposed amendments to neutralize it have been rejected by state media authorities. Schwiddessen offers further comments on the draft and how the enactment would take place:
Thus, in relation to potential enforcement action by the regulator, only the future can tell how strictly the new rules will be enforced. However, the KJM [German Commission for the Protection of Youth in the Media] is widely considered as not being a very active enforcement body. The greatest risk therefore lies with Germany’s consumer protection associations such as the VZBV which have the benefit of extensive financial means and which have already repeatedly targeted the video gaming industry for youth protection and ecommerce matters. The new guideline provides a strong argument in court on how the Interstate Treaty for the Protection of Minors advertisement restrictions must be interpreted and therefore a strong basis for potential cease and desist claims/injunctions.The discussion surrounding monetization and children has been going on for at least a year, and it's likely to continue as legislation makes its way through the states.
What do you think of Germany's new draft against monetization? Is it possible to regulate microtransactions to protect children without incurring problems with consumer choice? Let us know in the comments below!